Understandably, some of our guests are anxious about their upcoming travel arrangements given the backdrop of the COVID-19. Please know that we are closely monitoring the situation and following advice from the Australian Government and Tourism Australia. We have also sought specific advice directly from a health care professional, who deals with infectious diseases and tropical medicine.
What are the risks?
In all honesty, it is hard to know. The media is a full of sensational reports, some saying that COVID-19 is less lethal than a regular flu, but more infectious, and others saying the exact opposite. Certainly we wouldn’t take any unreasonable risks with our guests health, and at this stage the advice we have received is to take the normal precautions as we would regarding any seasonal flu.
This is an evolving situation and so if the landscape changes, so will our response.
One common question we have received, is whether it is safe to fly domestically within Australia. This article by the ABC addresses what the airlines are doing which is very reasurring.
Also, consider that in 2019, approximately 300,000 people got the seasonal flu, resulting in many 1000’s of deaths. As it stands (mid March 2020) flying now is probably a similar risk to flying in the peak of any regular flu season, or going to a supermarket.
What do guests need to know / do before going on tour?
New 7 day cancellation policy: For now, we have suspended our traditional cancellation policy, and we are allowing our guests to defer their travel without penalty up until 7 days prior to the tour.
You can book with peace of mind and know that if the situation changes, you will not lose your hard earned holiday.
If you are healthy, and the situation appears calm, please still come! On the back of the bushfires (which meant we had to cancel 10% of our tours) COVID-19 offers a huge challenge for a small business like ours. We would encourage you to keep informed from official government outlets, and please still come along for your adventure, if you are healthy.
If you are sick, let us know. We would ask that all guests with flu like symptoms in the lead up to their tour, to contact us and explore options to delay or cancel their tour. We will be encouraging guests to practice good respiratory and hand hygiene on tour to avoid the possibility of spreading illness, however if someone is sick, it is best if they defer their travel.
Get a vaccination. Whilst a COVID-19 vaccine is currently not available, we definitely recommend a seasonal flu vaccine for all guests travelling between May-September, and the COVID-19 vaccine, once available.
Bring hand sanitiser if you have it. Please note that due to the current shortage of hand sanitiser, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to provide it for your tour. Please bring / use your own if you have it.
What we do to prevent the risk of contracting COVID-19 / sickness on tour
Equipment / resources to be made available to all tour guides.
– Hand sanitizer or hand soap (current shortage)
– Tissues (current shortage)
– Medical gloves in the first aid kit
– Face masks – for use by a guest displaying symptoms
– Alcohol wipes
What we teach our guides to do on tour to minimise the spread of sickness
The following is taken directly from the tour guide handbook.
1. Practice and Encourage hand washing
Most sickness is passed via the hands, into the mouth, nose or eyes. Therefore, washing hands regularly and ensuring that your guests are doing the same, is vitally important.
Hands should be washed for the time it takes to sing Happy birthday, ensuring that you wash between the fingers and in the recess between the thumb and pointer finger.
2. Food handling / preparation – sick = no touch
Food handling represents the greatest risk for the transfer of sickness. Sharing a cheese platter or making sandwiches together, are two particularly high-risk activities.
Please ensure that guests are taking this seriously, particularly in flu season May-Sept, and that guests have the appropriate equipment so that they do not need to handle food directly i.e. tongs, cutlery etc.
If a guest or guide is sick, we should make alternative arrangements, so that they do not need to be in contact with food that others will consume.
As an organisation we will actively encourage all guests / agents of guests, who are travelling in Australia between May and September to get a seasonal flu vaccine.
The vaccine must be received at least 2 weeks prior to the tour, in order to be effective.
This will not be mandatory, but highly recommended.
Please note that there is not a vaccine for COVID-19 available, however should one become available, we will specifically recommend this to guests in addition to the seasonal flu vaccine.
What your guide will do if a guest is showing symptoms of COVID-19.
1. Interview the guest to establish;
– What are their symptoms?
– How long have they been suffering?
– Improving / deteriorating?
– Possible sources of transmission?
– Have they been in contact with anyone returning from one of the high-risk countries? Currently China, Italy, Iran, South Korea etc
2. Quarantine the guest as best as possible;
Keeping a physical distance between the infected guest and the rest of the party (including the guides) is the most important thing. We will also need to disinfect surfaces that the infected guest has been in contact with, using alcohol wipes.
The guide should also explain to the other guests, that the virus cannot be transferred by breathing in the same air as the infected person, and that we are managing the risk of transfer as best we can.
If we need to transport the suspected patient on the bus with the other guests, we will provide the patient with a face mask from the first aid kit. The infected guest will sit in front seat and we will wipe down hard surfaces with an alcohol wipe after the guest has exited the vehicle.
3. Release the guest to a medical facility.
Any guest who has symptoms of COVID-19 in addition to a history which suggests contact with someone with COVID-19, will be released from the tour, to a medical facility. We will inform the medical facility that that we are bringing a suspected COVID-19 case and we will make arrangements for the guest subsequent to their release from the medical facility.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19
The most common symptoms are
– Fever (88%)*
– Dry cough (68%).
– Exhaustion (38%)
– Coughing up mucus (33%)
– Shortness of breath (18%)
– Sore throat (14%)
– Headaches (14%)
– Muscle aches (14%)
– Chills (11%)
– Nausea and vomiting (5%)
– Stuffy nose (5%)
– Diarrhoea (4%).
Running nose is not a symptom of Covid-19.
* The percentages are the proportion of confirmed patients who displayed the particular symptom.