Press-trip planning in the vaccination age

RoxStars

Whenever Britain’s lockdown eases and our Covid numbers plummet, foreign borders will open to render overseas travel a possibility again. A possibility, yes, but one with strict caveats. For virtually every country – belatedly including Britain itself – currently admitting visitors is insisting that these travellers must arrive with evidence of a negative Covid test, one taken within an allotted number of hours before arrival.

Further ahead, it’s likely that proof of vaccination will become travel’s gold standard. Aussie airline Qantas has announced plans to demand long-haul fliers be vaccinated (Michael O’Leary, ever the contrarian, immediately retorted that Ryanair wouldn’t do this), and Cyprus has said it will permit those arrivals able to prove vaccination to skip the negative-test requirement from March. Numerous ‘vaccine passports’ have been mooted, with CommonPass the current front-runner. Yet there are complications: most fundamentally, it’s yet to be verified whether the various vaccines provide immunity or simply reduce Covid-19’s effects. Consequently, we’re a long way from having a globally-approved passport.

Unfortunately, all of this will much complicate international press trips. Be it an individual or group trip, you’ll need to ask your client if they’d be willing to cover the cost – currently £125-225 – of each journalist’s PCR test? (For us poorly-paid freelancers, stumping up for this each time is unfeasible; although staff writers based at newspapers may be able to claim it on expenses.) Will clients happily take the financial risk of delayed/cancelled plans should a journalist return a positive test? Is there any insurance to cover said risk? And can you, the PR firm, always guarantee to arrange said PCR tests within the stringent last-minute timeframes?

The admission protocol will, of course, be subtly different for each country, train operator, airline and so on. For example some destinations, such as Jersey and Italy, have actually been offering free PCR tests on arrival. Typically, turnaround is quick although travellers must isolate – hardly ideal on press trips – until results arrive. Rapid-testing, with results available inside an hour, was even available for Brits at certain Italian airports before our winter spike, and may reappear in spring.

Lots to ponder, then. If this hasn’t already happened, I’d advise that you gently begin quizzing clients about these issues with the aim of developing a press-trip policy – while also waiting (i.e. hoping) for evidence of clearer, globally-adopted policies to emerge.