COVID-19 complicates even banal cases
At the SOS International travel assistance alarm centre, we look back on a summer season when the number of cases was below normal - but where each case was complicated by local restrictions on tests and corona hotels.
- We do the best we can to help. It is in our DNA at the alarm centre and that is what makes us happy about our jobs, says Ann Kjærsgaard, Team Leader at the alarm centre for travel assistance.
However, this past summer season it took more than usual to help the travellers who needed assistance on vacation. Ann Kjærsgaard explains using an example:
- Usually, if a patient calls with a severely sore throat, we refer them to a doctor. However, due to the pandemic, we cannot ask the patient to just show up at a clinic. First, they test for COVID-19.
Therefore, a simple case becomes having to initially clarify the location of the nearest test centre. Only with a negative test can the patient see the doctor. If the test is positive, the case processing will be seriously complicated:
- Then we need to check the guidelines of the local authorities. If the patient is in Spain, knowing the recommendations of the general health authorities does not suffice. We must also check the restrictions of the region in question, says Ann Kjærsgaard.
There are 17 regions in Spain that could have their own recommendations. At the same time, restrictions and recommendations have continuously changed over the summer in line with the development in infection rates.
Corona hotels are fully occupied
In Spain, Greece and Portugal, the authorities have required that infected tourists isolate themselves at the so-called "corona hotels" - isolation facilities provided by the authorities.
However, public corona hotels have not always had rooms and most regular hotels have refused to accommodate individuals infected with COVID-19.
Therefore, the assistance coordinators at the alarm centre have drawn on the network of SOS International and used their knowledge of the conditions at the destinations to find alternative places to stay - either through services such as Airbnb or other private landlords.
- It is a time-consuming process. And then we have not even touched on how to transport the infected person to the place of isolation. You cannot just take the bus or hail a taxi when you are infected, says Ann Kjærsgaard.
In the upcoming autumn season, more scattered travel patterns are expected, as the dates of the autumn holidays vary in the Nordic countries. Nevertheless, SOS International encourages travellers to explore the possibilities of testing in advance as far as this is possible as well as where to find information on local restrictions.