School holiday travel less risky when people take good coronavirus habits with them, experts say

The NSW South Coast, where many Canberrans are expected to take a break during the school holidays. Picture: Jamila Toderas
The NSW South Coast, where many Canberrans are expected to take a break during the school holidays. Picture: Jamila Toderas

Canberrans have been encouraged to avoid travelling during the school holidays, but experts say the territory's good track record coupled with strong adherence to social-distancing measures reduces the risk of a coronavirus outbreak in the ACT after holidaymakers return.

The ACT government has run online advertisements this week encouraging people to stay in the ACT, but authorities acknowledge Canberrans will travel and interstate visitors will spend time in the capital.

ACT Health has encouraged those who decide to go away to avoid areas where COVID-19 outbreaks have happened, follow health rules and monitor whether their holiday donation records cases two weeks after they return.

"Be vigilant with hand and respiratory hygiene, maintain physical distancing from other groups, and stay home if feeling unwell. Talk with your interstate visitors about keeping COVID-safe in the ACT," ACT Health's advice said.

On Saturday, the ACT chalked up 75 days since it recorded a new COVID-19 case. More than 92,000 tests have been completed in the territory, with 113 cases detected and three deaths.

Professor Kate Reynolds, who works at the research school of psychology at the Australian National University, said holidaymakers would look for behavioural cues at their destinations, and strong adherence to new protocols designed to limit the spread of COVID-19 would likely be replicated.

"If you go to a new area and you look around and you see that everyone around you tends to be physically distancing and wearing masks or whatever it might be, then you're going to be more likely to do it as well," Professor Reynolds said.

Professor Reynolds said recent coronavirus scares along the South Coast would likely drive stronger compliance to new public health safety measures, which would set the tone for Canberrans visiting over the holiday period.

"People are sort of leaving their community, I suppose, where certain norms have been established and going to a new one that might have different norms. But if the norms are largely the same, everything should be fine," she said.

Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, an epidemiologist based at the University of New South Wales who advises the World Health Organisation, said Canberrans ought to be congratulated for the highly limited number of COVID-19 cases in the territory.

The territory's successes were the result of good management rather than good luck, she said.

Professor McLaws said it was important people on holidays did not forget the need to maintain COVID-safe behaviour and work to suppress the virus' spread could be rapidly undone when people slipped up in following the new rules.

"It's just that when people are on holidays, and they're looking after children and they're engaged in conversation or engaged in joyous family activities, people tend to forget another looming issue, and this looming issue is COVID. So it's good that they've had this really embedded behaviour for months and months," Professor McLaws said.

She said it was important people who felt the slightest bit off colour continued to get tested

This story Travel less risky when people take good COVID-19 habits with them, experts say first appeared on The Canberra Times.