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  1. #1
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    Default Covid and extended overlanding, what will make you feel good enough to go?

    I keep seeing people post they are delaying big trips due to covid. This has cropped up in numerous threads and I am very interested in how and why people are making decisions to go ahead with extended trips, or if delaying, what will they use as criteria to finally move ahead? This is self interest at work, because we want to get back on the road as soon as we can, and as for everyone, top of the list of challenges is what to do about covid? I am struggling with how to make this decision.

    When I say extended trip, I do not mean a three week tour of Botswana or Namibia, or a quick dash to KTP. That kind of trip is obviously well socially distanced, low covid risk and within striking distance of quality health care should any issue (covid or not) arise.

    When venturing further north for longer periods, risks rise. Some countries deny covid is an issue at all (Tanzania), others may not have a complete picture of infection rates, or have treatment available if you were unlucky enough to be seriously infected. On a long trip risk of exposure goes up, you are taking that small chance many more times, and are going to need to go to higher risk places, the crowded market, the busy shops, that you might be able to avoid on a 2-3 week trip.

    I have seen many offer advice or thoughts they will delay "until the situation improves", or "until next year", which is completely reasonable. But this implies some sort of expected improvement in the situation. What is the improvement you're looking for?

    I am making two key assumptions in this discussion, that you are taking covid reasonably seriously (as in, don't think it's a conspiracy, etc), and that we're accepting the short term elevated risk of flying to Africa. Obviously flying is not an issue if you're in Africa. For us delaying a year has other implications, as I have a very large one of a kind project at work starting in 2022. If we delay to 2022 that means either passing on being involved in a very interesting project, or delaying to 2023/2024. To far away for me to contemplate.

    African travel is already an exercise in risk/reward evaluation. Snakes, malaria, poor access to advanced health care, mysterious water quality are all factors. Covid is now another factor, probably here to stay in some form for quite some time to come. Let's get down to brass tacks, what improvement in the covid situation will make you feel good enough to green light a Big Trip? Or are you there already?
    Blog of our African travels: stuckinlowgear.com

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Covid and extended overlanding, what will make you feel good enough to go?

    The variables that we are considering are:

    1. Vaccination (ourselves). We are extremely fortunate and I expect for us we will obtain one of the mRNA vaccines in the near future.
    2. Vaccination rate in destination countries (or lack thereof). Not sure if we should worry about this or not. If we decide to use this as a factor I expect we'll be waiting a long time to undertake a longer tip.
    3. Infection rate in destination, measured per capita and given more weight with a lower positivity rate.
    4. Data on vaccine effectiveness with new variants. This is the sticky one, as new variants that we don't know about could crop up anytime, anywhere. Does this mean don't factor this in because it is so far outside our circle of control, or does this mean wait at home forever until covid situation is completely stabilized, knowing that could be years away. For us this I think is the big one.
    5. Social responsibility to minimize travel to reduce spreading. I think this factor is lowered by longer trips (not zipping around the world back and forth every two weeks) and early data confirms vaccinated people spread less virus/have reduced viral load. For us this was a large concern earlier but is now diminishing (?), at least somewhat. I will be watching closely for more data on vaccinated people being carriers/spreaders.
    6. Border restrictions. I think this will be a variable for awhile to come and provided you are willing to deal with the hassle and/or needing to adjust itinerary I am not that concerned about this. Numerous people are managing to make extended overlanding trips in the current environment. For us we are not basing our travel decisions on this issue.
    7. U.S. CDC and state department travel advice maps, taken with a grain of salt

    TLDR: I want to say, we get vaccinated and we go. But there is still that hesitation in the back of my mind....
    Blog of our African travels: stuckinlowgear.com

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    Default Re: Covid and extended overlanding, what will make you feel good enough to go?

    Hi CalDriver good list of considerations you created. Just commenting on the ones that seem relevant for us. There are probably 100s of thousands wanna be travelers thinking about this and waiting for some kind of international travel guidance, once vaccinated.

    1. Vaccination (ourselves). We are extremely fortunate and I expect for us we will obtain one of the mRNA vaccines in the near future.
    Key One: its a no go without it for personal and social responsibility reasons.
    2. Vaccination rate in destination countries (or lack thereof). Not sure if we should worry about this or not. If we decide to use this as a factor I expect we'll be waiting a long time to undertake a longer tip.
    3. Infection rate in destination, measured per capita and given more weight with a lower positivity rate.
    4. Data on vaccine effectiveness with new variants. This is the sticky one, as new variants that we don't know about could crop up anytime, anywhere. Does this mean don't factor this in because it is so far outside our circle of control, or does this mean wait at home forever until covid situation is completely stabilized, knowing that could be years away. For us this I think is the big one.
    Relevant only if data comes out before departure, and has to be significant

    5. Social responsibility to minimize travel to reduce spreading. I think this factor is lowered by longer trips (not zipping around the world back and forth every two weeks) and early data confirms vaccinated people spread less virus/have reduced viral load. For us this was a large concern earlier but is now diminishing (?), at least somewhat. I will be watching closely for more data on vaccinated people being carriers/spreaders.
    Relevant as data comes out. Double masking, social distancing, sanitization, etc, if it remains a concern or uncertain. Also need to follow guidance of host countries if more stringent. We continue to do this now in our community

    6. Border restrictions. I think this will be a variable for awhile to come and provided you are willing to deal with the hassle and/or needing to adjust itinerary I am not that concerned about this. Numerous people are managing to make extended overlanding trips in the current environment. For us we are not basing our travel decisions on this issue.
    7. U.S. CDC and state department travel advice maps, taken with a grain of salt

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    Default Re: Covid and extended overlanding, what will make you feel good enough to go?

    I wrote this before reading the other responses and find (now that I've read them) that these views are much the same:

    1) Permission - no point in planning to travel somewhere if you can't enter the country. Further to that, if you then need to go into additional quarantine to go from one state/province/territory to another, this makes the trip less attractive (although if you can arrange virtual work while in each quarantine period it makes more sense).
    2) R factor and local culture in terms of following biosecurity measures - the USA is out of the question until either the population takes the pandemic seriously (which is not going to happen any time soon); Canada makes more sense in terms of how seriously people are taking things. However...this results in more restrictions (refer to point 1).
    3) Vaccination availability for us - one of us is due for a vaccination in 1Q, the other in 4Q (or next year). We'll be happier to plan a big trip once we''re both vaccinated.
    4) Will we be able to visit the places in which we're interested? If the national parks and art galleries are going to be closed then there' a lot less point in going.

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    Default Re: Covid and extended overlanding, what will make you feel good enough to go?

    Thank you, Caldriver, for starting this thread.

    I am desperate to get to Kenya to see my family - I haven’t seen any of my immediate family for 18 months. We are firmly in lockdown here in the UK with non-essential travel overseas illegal.

    For us, the game changer, even going to Kenya to visit my family if and when it is allowed, is travel insurance. Few insurance companies will cover anyone for medical insurance during this pandemic. Whilst there are good (private) medical facilities in Kenya, if one ended up in hospital/ICU for a COVID-related or non-COVID related condition, the cost is considerable. If a casevac was needed back to your home country, then you are talking about a life changing amount of money.

    The other countries being talked about in this thread, I don’t have first hand experience of their medical facilities, but I do know many of them are nowhere as sophisticated as those in the top hospitals in Kenya.

    The other consideration I think long and hard about is whether it is morally right to undertake cross border travel at this time. As in all things in life, there are pros and cons. With an already overstretched and under-resourced health system in most African countries, is it right to potentially add to that burden? Food for thought.

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    Default Re: Covid and extended overlanding, what will make you feel good enough to go?

    For those who have never had to deal with a government or private hospital in Africa, I can tell you just getting to see a doctor is a stressful experience. You have to pay a lot of the fees upfront - even if you are accompanying a patient bleeding profusely from a RTA or someone clearly in the throes of a major heart attack. If this involves getting permission from an overseas insurance company if you don’t have the money, then the patient is likely to die before getting any medical assistance.

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    Default Re: Covid and extended overlanding, what will make you feel good enough to go?

    Quote Originally Posted by Wazungu Wawili View Post
    Thank you, Caldriver, for starting this thread.

    I am desperate to get to Kenya to see my family - I haven’t seen any of my immediate family for 18 months. We are firmly in lockdown here in the UK with non-essential travel overseas illegal.

    For us, the game changer, even going to Kenya to visit my family if and when it is allowed, is travel insurance. Few insurance companies will cover anyone for medical insurance during this pandemic. Whilst there are good (private) medical facilities in Kenya, if one ended up in hospital/ICU for a COVID-related or non-COVID related condition, the cost is considerable. If a casevac was needed back to your home country, then you are talking about a life changing amount of money.

    The other countries being talked about in this thread, I don’t have first hand experience of their medical facilities, but I do know many of them are nowhere as sophisticated as those in the top hospitals in Kenya.

    The other consideration I think long and hard about is whether it is morally right to undertake cross border travel at this time. As in all things in life, there are pros and cons. With an already overstretched and under-resourced health system in most African countries, is it right to potentially add to that burden? Food for thought.
    Very good point on the insurance. That had come up in our evaluation a while ago but skipped my mind when I was posting. We have usually used Ripcord Insurance, which says they will "consider" (<--seems like a word insurance companies use to avoid covering?) covering COVID-19 care/repatriation with a confirmed medical diagnosis and if all quarantine regulations are met. We're not close to traveling, but certainly before we do we will get the details from them.

    I also agree that considering the moral implications of cross border travel and burdening another countries health care system is important. Where I get lost on this is, what metric does one watch to, eventually make a go decision on this point? Is it when vaccination rates in the destination are high enough? It seems likely it will be years before many in Africa have access to vaccination. If this is the answer, then probably no recreational African travel for a few years to come.

    If the traveler is vaccinated then the likelihood of being a burden on the local healthcare system is quite low, but how low will remain a mystery perhaps for years. How low is low enough? How long is vaccination effective for? For which vaccine? I worry that the answer to some of these questions will not be known for a year or two, and if using this as the decision point, then again this means probably no recreational African travel for some time to come.

    Whenever we do make it back, it will be vaccinated and following all rules, regulations and precautions (masking, sanitation, etc). We are hoping for October of this year. We hope to manage Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia, but could just stay Namibia if that is more appropriate (no border crossings), or of course...not go.

    I am sorry that you haven't been able to see your family, fingers crossed for you that it is in the not so distant future. Very good to see that vaccination rates in the UK are getting there. Perhaps watching UK travel rules is a good indicator for us all? I have not followed the situation there very closely, but it seems that, now at least, the UK is taking this seriously.
    Blog of our African travels: stuckinlowgear.com

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    Default Re: Covid and extended overlanding, what will make you feel good enough to go?

    My marker is knowing that the vaccine I have received is effective, I expect that I will only get vaccinated in 2 to 6 months time. However we know that the two RNA vaccines went into clinical trials in July / August last year and with tens of thousands of volunteers being closely monitored it's a fair guess that we will have a very good idea of the efficacy of these by the third quarter. That will be enough for me to consider my own personal risk covered or not.

    However the other factor to consider is where will South Africa be in terms of infection rates and on another thread I have speculated on the timing of a potential 4th wave which I estimate could be around October/ November if we don't get our vaccination programme going and it looks a little shaky at the moment. Travelling during a wave of infections means closed borders, travel restrictions and overcrowded hospitals, we all know that African borders are already problematic without COVID. The overcrowded hospitals means an increased risk if you need medical care in terms of an accident and trying to get this with people scrambling around treating an influx of COVID patients is not an acceptable risk.

    I am using SA as a proxy for the rest of Southern Africa because when in trouble north of the border SA is always the valid fall back plan and most countries have only imposed travel restrictions in line with SA. So in summary no serious overlanding without an effective vaccine and not if there's a risk of a wave, the earliest this seems to be possible is the 4th quarter of this year.

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    Default Re: Covid and extended overlanding, what will make you feel good enough to go?

    Good point re insurance - didn't occur to me because we have worldwide insurance all the time (and yes - it does cover Covid-19).

    The ethical point is also a good one. We are restricted here whenever into "red alert" and it's driven by ICU occupation. The government wants to ensure that there's capacity for road traffic accident victims and other ICU needs. I think I'd base my decisions on whether to travel into a particular country on the measures being taken in that country to protect the population.

    We haven't seen family in Europe for over a year, and haven't seen family in Canada for well over two years (daughters, brother, and grandsons - one of whom we've never seen, other than on skype, at all), to understand your situation.

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    Default Re: Covid and extended overlanding, what will make you feel good enough to go?

    There are a few studies starting to trickle in on vaccination protection against variants as well as a reduction in transmission if vaccinated. By no means "case closed", but I'll take every positive indication I can find.

    Article on effectiveness on variants: https://www.theguardian.com/world/20...covid-variants

    And the study: https://www.researchsquare.com/article/rs-226857/v1
    Last edited by CalDriver; 2021/02/17 at 05:52 PM. Reason: added link
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    Default Re: Covid and extended overlanding, what will make you feel good enough to go?

    Whilst I have no qualms about dying in “some corner of a foreign field”, I really don’t want to be the one left dealing with the situation if I am the one left behind. I am certain I could deal with this ghastly scenario because I have family in Kenya - and numerous friends and contacts in most of the eastern and southern African countries. Plus the back-up of a British High Commission or Embassy. Others may not be so well represented as we are.

    It is not just how to deal with the deceased, but how to deal with getting the vehicle (if in one piece) out of the country - or if the vehicle is written-off, how to deal with the bureaucracy of a TIP or Carnet. All this bearing in mind that the statistics show that road traffic accidents are high up there with malaria (and COVID) as likely causes of death.

    I am sorry to bring up this morbid subject.

    However, it should be something all overlanders should think about how they would deal with it. There is a salutary lesson on Horizons Unlimited about a long-term, but unmarried, partnership when one died unexpectedly in Morocco.

    At Pemba, on the Mozambique coast, we met two brothers from Malawi who had been travelling in a convoy with a friend in his own vehicle. The friend died of a heart attack the night they arrived in Pemba. The Malawian brothers were faced with the very difficult scenario of registering the death in Mozambique when neither of them were related to their dead friend, getting the required licences and lead coffin to repatriate the body by road to Malawi, and then working out how they could get the deceased’s vehicle back to Malawi with neither of them being the registered owner.

    Just saying...

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    Default Re: Covid and extended overlanding, what will make you feel good enough to go?

    We plan to be away from the states for many years, and if one of us goes on ahead, we hopefully make it easier by cremating wherever that may occur (and the other carries on with the ashes!). more seriously, if my name is on the vehicle registration then makes sense then to give Mary a notarized authorization, whatever it is called, to take the vehicle over boarders. BTW Mary just joined the forum as Mary3 just in case she pops into a thread to tease me you all know she's just kidding

    There was long story about Covid in Africa today on the hour long news program PBS. Concerns about variants and that the mRNA vaccines are 60% less effective, the situation in RSA ( and CT in particular), and the big picture for the continent. None of it encouraging. TZN president (?) seems like slow walking vaccine rollout too.

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    Default Re: Covid and extended overlanding, what will make you feel good enough to go?

    Quote Originally Posted by Wazungu Wawili View Post
    Whilst I have no qualms about dying in “some corner of a foreign field”, I really don’t want to be the one left dealing with the situation if I am the one left behind. I am certain I could deal with this ghastly scenario because I have family in Kenya - and numerous friends and contacts in most of the eastern and southern African countries. Plus the back-up of a British High Commission or Embassy. Others may not be so well represented as we are.

    It is not just how to deal with the deceased, but how to deal with getting the vehicle (if in one piece) out of the country - or if the vehicle is written-off, how to deal with the bureaucracy of a TIP or Carnet. All this bearing in mind that the statistics show that road traffic accidents are high up there with malaria (and COVID) as likely causes of death.

    I am sorry to bring up this morbid subject.

    However, it should be something all overlanders should think about how they would deal with it. There is a salutary lesson on Horizons Unlimited about a long-term, but unmarried, partnership when one died unexpectedly in Morocco.

    At Pemba, on the Mozambique coast, we met two brothers from Malawi who had been travelling in a convoy with a friend in his own vehicle. The friend died of a heart attack the night they arrived in Pemba. The Malawian brothers were faced with the very difficult scenario of registering the death in Mozambique when neither of them were related to their dead friend, getting the required licences and lead coffin to repatriate the body by road to Malawi, and then working out how they could get the deceased’s vehicle back to Malawi with neither of them being the registered owner.

    Just saying...
    All very true and bears thinking about, but I would hope that people were thinking about this at least a little before covid. I don't know how to quantify the risk, but traffic accidents in particular remain high risk to overlanders, as well as malaria, (higher than covid? I suspect much higher if you have been vaccinated, but I don't know) but we were all taking that risk before the pandemic, so not too much changed there?
    Blog of our African travels: stuckinlowgear.com

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    Default Re: Covid and extended overlanding, what will make you feel good enough to go?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bud3 View Post
    We plan to be away from the states for many years, and if one of us goes on ahead, we hopefully make it easier by cremating wherever that may occur (and the other carries on with the ashes!). more seriously, if my name is on the vehicle registration then makes sense then to give Mary a notarized authorization, whatever it is called, to take the vehicle over boarders. BTW Mary just joined the forum as Mary3 just in case she pops into a thread to tease me you all know she's just kidding

    There was long story about Covid in Africa today on the hour long news program PBS. Concerns about variants and that the mRNA vaccines are 60% less effective, the situation in RSA ( and CT in particular), and the big picture for the continent. None of it encouraging. TZN president (?) seems like slow walking vaccine rollout too.
    Very good point that having the letter of authorization prepared, written and notarized even if you don't plan to use it. We have discussed this even if it wasn't something as drastic as death, but if one of us had to fly home urgently to deal with who knows what at home, leaving the other to deal with the vehicle. Or even a temporary break with the plan in country, where one of us might move the vehicle and catch up to the other later. A letter of authorization is easy to write and free, so no reason not to have it ready to go.

    Regarding the mRNA vaccines 60% less effective, my reading so far has found that the devil is in the details, big time. Many studies have found that they produce 60% less antibodies, but did the PBS story address a) whether that is below the threshold of antibodies required for protection? and b) address the production of T-cells. As the article I posted before stated, T-cells are not as easy to study, thus there is less data available, but have a critical role to play in long term protection. Before this is understood other studies are not painting a complete picture, and that lack of completeness may be the difference between good news and bad news.

    My news feed yesterday had two articles in a row "Pfizer vaccine doesn't have strong protection for South Africa Variant", followed by a second story, "Pfizer vaccines still effective against South African variant". These mixed messages are exasperating, but also probably true. Turns out this stuff is complicated!
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    Default Re: Covid and extended overlanding, what will make you feel good enough to go?

    Of course every overlander should think and discuss the worst case scenario, but I think, in reality, very few do. It’s not such a big issue for the South Africans overlanding in the rest of their continent, but I think it could be a big issue for others with vehicles not registered in their home country.

    I love your thoughtful and well-read analyses - all of which corresponds to my thinking and reading. Asante sana, Caldriver.

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    Default Re: Covid and extended overlanding, what will make you feel good enough to go?

    The Tanzanian President, John Magfuli, is in complete denial about COVID-19 - and has been for nearly a year. According to him, there is no Covid in Tanzania...

    According to him, prayer, inhalations and herbal concoctions will keep coronavirus away... And this is despite the fact that the Vice-President of Zanzibar (effectively the VP of Tanzania), Seif Sharif Hamad, has just died having been tested positive for COVID three weeks ago. And Magfuli’s close aide, his Chief of Staff, is currently in hospital.

    Tanzania is not planning on vaccinating its population.

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    Default Re: Covid and extended overlanding, what will make you feel good enough to go?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bud3 View Post
    We plan to be away from the states for many years, and if one of us goes on ahead, we hopefully make it easier by cremating wherever that may occur (and the other carries on with the ashes!).
    Having dealt with two cremations in the sophisticated country of Kenya, it is not for the faint-hearted. It will more often than not be in a Hindu crematorium - sometimes on the open pyre and sometimes direct into the industrial oven without any screening - with none of the sensibilities as seen in western crematoriums. But that is all good, in many ways; it is just the disposal of a body. Life and death are even more intrinsically linked in Africa.
    Last edited by Wazungu Wawili; 2021/02/20 at 01:40 AM.

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    Default Re: Covid and extended overlanding, what will make you feel good enough to go?

    Another blog of a couple undertaking, with some successes and a lot of struggles, traveling in the current climate. They have good humor, and have certainly hit a few snags: https://www.living-unsettled.com
    Blog of our African travels: stuckinlowgear.com

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    Default Re: Covid and extended overlanding, what will make you feel good enough to go?

    Thank you, Caldriver, for this link to these extraordinary - and lucky - overlanders who set out on a difficult trip during a pandemic. I think it was foolhardy. They did seem surprised that their journey from Sudan southwards came to a grinding halt...

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    Default Re: Covid and extended overlanding, what will make you feel good enough to go?

    Quote Originally Posted by Wazungu Wawili View Post
    Thank you, Caldriver, for this link to these extraordinary - and lucky - overlanders who set out on a difficult trip during a pandemic. I think it was foolhardy. They did seem surprised that their journey from Sudan southwards came to a grinding halt...
    Perhaps foolhardy, but I admire their perseverance and flexibility. Their story recalls Conrad's Youth to me. Though I could not quite find the appropriate excerpt, these seem close:

    “You fight, work, sweat, nearly kill yourself, sometimes do kill yourself, trying to accomplish something — and you can’t. Not from any fault of yours. You simply can do nothing, neither great nor little — not a thing in the world — not even marry an old maid, or get a wretched 600-ton cargo of coal to its port of destination.”
    ------
    “I remember my youth and the feeling that will never come back any more—the feeling that I could last for ever, outlast the sea, the earth, and all men; the deceitful feeling that lures us on to joys, to perils, to love, to vain effort—to death; the triumphant conviction of strength, the heat of life in the handful of dust, the glow in the heart that with every year grows dim, grows cold, grows small, and expires—and expires, too soon, too soon—before life itself.”

    ------
    Or perhaps my favorite is the most appropriate [in reference to rats fleeing a sinking ship, as I remember]

    “And after some talk we agreed that the wisdom of rats had been grossly overrated, being in fact no greater than that of men.”

    Joseph Conrad, Youth

    To their credit it seems the Ethiopian situation derailed them more than covid, and they did try to postpone their plans for six months. But when they learned they were laid off decided to go for it. Perhaps if they had delayed they would have learned more about the Ethiopian border in advance?
    Blog of our African travels: stuckinlowgear.com

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