Staying safe whilst in transit

Better safe than sorry

Many different forms of safety come to mind when one has a work or leisure trip pending. First up, it’s worth avoiding the use of public wifi whilst you are in transit – especially for online banking and lengthy bouts of gaming. Investing in a portable router, which allows you to set up your own wifi hotspot, is likely to prove a much more cyber-secure option.

Next up, it is an awesome plan to password-protect your smartphone and other devices (where credit card and identification details can easily be snitched); and to put in place location-tracking and data-wiping software in the event of a device getting swiped. According to FCM Travel Solutions, around 20 percent of travelers are subject to cyber crimes whilst they are abroad, so ensure that your online security is tamper-proof before you step into that airport-bound taxi.

Then, your personal safety needs due consideration. Stop snail-mail delivery, as an overflowing postbox at your home or office is a sure sign that you’ve left town for a while. Ensure that your bank knows you plan to be away, so they can track suspicious spending for you; an SMS notification of every credit card transaction is a brilliant failsafe (it lets you call up your personal banker and have them trace any fraudulent transaction on the double). Lock valuable documents, such as passports, any sort of currency and travelers cheques, in the hotel safe on arrival; and ensure you make a list of (and photocopy to leave with a friend) each valuable document in your possession for quick retrieval in the case of theft.

Perhaps, you’re the ultra-efficient type (or a social media addict) who starts posting travel images the minute you exit the house. You may wish to rethink this approach … tough as it may be after MONTHS of hard slog in the office. Reason is: photos and status updates that give details of your travels, as well as location settings on smart devices, make things much more streamlined for cyber thieves wanting to track you – and for you to fall victim to the crimes they have in mind. Rather post about your trip on your safe return!

And what about your most valuable possession: your health. The world has morphed into a whole new – and rather apocalyptic – place since the outbreak of Coronavirus (Covid-19); and the more recent ban by authorities on non-essential travel in and out of affected countries. However, if you are currently in transit or have an unavoidable business trip approaching, read on for a few key tips to help keep you in good health for the duration.

While the regular and thorough disinfecting of planes and airport lounges is of some (probably limited) value, the infectious diseases specialists in our midst believe that frequent hand-washing is, in effect, a traveler’s very best guard against infection. In fact, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you wash your hands not just regularly throughout the day, but that you, in fact, keep the soap going for 40 to 60 seconds before rinsing. Perhaps sing a song while doing this? See @sherylsandberg and her partner @tom_bernthal in action during the #SafeHands Challenge on Instagram.

When soap and water prove unavailable (you’ve just stepped off an airport bus, for example), an alcohol-based hand sanitiser, stashed in your hand- or man-bag, with at least a 60% alcohol content, can be used in their place. However, I always think of the surgeons in HOUSE MD, ER, GREY’S ANATOMY and SCRUBS just prior to hitting the operating theatre: soap and water (up to the elbows) are definitely first prize!

“Hand sanitizers are great. So are antiseptic hand wipes,” says travel medicine specialist, Dr Richard Dawood. But, don’t panic, is the advice of Dr William Schaffner, a professor of medicine, with a focus on infectious diseases. “Even if there is some virus in the inanimate environment,” he enthuses, “it’s not going to jump off the seat and bite you in the ankle. You’ve got to touch it, and then touch your nose or your mouth. So it’s those hands that are the important intermediary.” Amen, I say. So: remember to wash or sanitise your hands after touching surfaces in airports, planes, taxis and buses. This is, after all, where the knowledgeable put their emphasis!


So it’s those hands that are the important intermediary.” Amen, I say. So: remember to wash or sanitise your hands after touching surfaces in airports, planes, taxis and buses. This is, after all, where the knowledgeable put their emphasis!

And those same specialists are both of value, and remain humor-worthy. My medical family members, on a WhatsApp group, recently shared their thoughts on unnecessary mask buying and wearing, below:

“Masks are worn to ward against the intake of noxious wind or ‘feng’ in ancient taoist philosophy, and are as useful as deodorisers to stop us breathing in aerosolized faeces borne by such noxious winds or ‘flatus’”.

See what I mean? So, if you’re in an airport and wearing a mask “to blend”, bully for you. But don’t expect it to actually DO anything for you. Social distancing is plenty good enough; unless you’re an older adult (over 60) or part of another high-risk group (such as someone suffering from heart or lung disease, diabetes, or who has a compromised immune system following chemo-therapy, as just one example – ask your doctor if you are unsure). In these cases, you should aim to stay at home and not risk undertaking ANY travel at this rather precarious time.

Data from China and, increasingly, other Coronavirus hotspots, shows that elderly individuals and those with “underlying health conditions” are most at risk of becoming seriously ill and even dying as a result of this disease. It’s just not worth taking the risk. Rather reschedule your trip for a future date when the world will – hopefully – be in a much better state. Don’t fret; things will normalise. Travel is priceless, so keep armchair traveling in the interim!


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