Should you avoid travel now because of the delta variant?

travel delta variant
Photo via Dave Heuts/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)

COVID-19 vaccination rates are rising, mortality rates are declining, and travel restrictions are loosening. Many people are planning to travel this summer and for the rest of 2021. However, health experts say the delta variant of COVID-19 is a new cause for concern when you travel, especially for those who are unvaccinated.

The delta variant, which was first detected in India in December 2020, has now spread to 96 locations. It was first detected in the U.S. in March 2021. 

On June 18, the European Union added the U.S. to its “safe list” of countries, allowing even unvaccinated visitors from the U.S. to enter its 27 member states for nonessential travel, as long as they can provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. Those 27 countries can set their own restrictions and requirements for entry.

The decision came the same week that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention labeled the delta variant as a “variant of concern” because it spreads more quickly and may affect people more severely than earlier forms of COVID-19.

Health officials have said people who are vaccinated against COVID-19, particularly with a two-dose vaccine such as Moderna or Pfizer, should not worry about the delta variant. That’s because studies have shown that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are doing well at protecting against the virus, although the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine is somewhat less effective

For anyone traveling, or simply curious, the CDC has a global variant map that shows the countries where different variants have been identified, although it does not list infection rates. It does, however, list the risk level by country. 

Online national health department websites can often show more specific data for travelers’ destination countries. 

Unequal access to the vaccine across the world has meant that poorer countries are less adequately protected, with cases continuing to rise in parts of South America, Southeast Asia, and Africa. According to the World Health Organization, 75% of vaccine doses have gone to just 10 nations.

Although the vaccines do well at protecting against COVID-19 and its variants, those who travel who wish to further protect themselves against the delta variant can follow safety protocols like wearing a mask, social distancing, and avoiding crowded, poorly ventilated indoor spaces.

Those who are unvaccinated will face a higher risk of contamination from the virus when traveling. 

Read more on the delta variant: 

Sources: New York Times, CDC

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