In the current climate, it is very important to travel in compliance with hygiene and social distancing rules. The measures we take in airports and buses as well as hotels, all places where it is impossible to avoid crowds, could prove crucial in whether or not we catch the coronavirus. Especially in light of a recent study that evidenced how a single COVID-19-positive person infected 23 others on a poorly ventilated Chinese bus, traveling could be more of a headache than an opportunity to destress.
But if you are still adamant about having a break from a terrible year and trying to squeeze in one last holiday before temperatures cool down with the untimely arrival of fall, there are things you need to pay extra attention to. How can we protect ourselves from the coronavirus while traveling? And what should you look for and ask for in establishments in this regard? Here's an overview:
3 letters, 10 digits: HES
The first thing you should know while traveling inside Turkey, whether by car, bus, train or plane, is that you need a HES code. Named after the abbreviation of the Ministry of Health's Hayat Eve Sığar (Life Fits into Home) app, the 10-digit code enables you to travel between provinces across Turkey as it ensures that you are not coronavirus positive, do not carry a risk of infection nor have you had recent contact with a positive case.
Airlines and travel companies usually require you to enter the code before payment as a prerequisite to complete your booking. If you do not want to download the app, which also shows risky areas within your proximity and can alert you if you have had contact with a recently diagnosed patient, you can always go the SMS route by texting the word HES, followed by your nationality, passport number, birth year and surname (with a single space between all information) to 2023. Turkish citizens can also visit the e-government platform.
Here are a few rules to live by while traveling:
– Wear a face mask at all times.
– Adhere to the rules of airports and airlines.
– Follow closely the regulations set by the General Directorate of the Turkish State Railways (TCDD).
– Disinfect and wipe down the area where you will be sitting.
– Make sure to keep your hands clean during your journey by washing or disinfecting them regularly.
– Cough or sneeze into your elbow.
– Change your mask about every four hours or when it gets wet.
– Choose well-ventilated seats, preferably next to a window.
– Stay away from public toilets as much as possible.
When it comes to choosing accommodation, guests should opt for establishments that are COVID-19 certified with "safe tourism" certificates awarded by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The certificate program is part of a scheme launched at the start of the season and is based on a list of 132 criteria necessary to accommodate customers in proper sanitary conditions. To earn the COVID-19-safe label, hotels have to be strict in their implementations and must also set up a separate section to isolate tourists who test positive for COVID-19.
Here are just some of the measures hotels need to have in place to check all items listed in the COVID-19 and Hygiene Practices Evaluation Form prepared by the government.
Protocols and procedures regarding new hygiene practices should be monitored systematically. Hotels must have posters and diagrams explaining the new rules, briefs for guests and protective equipment and extra face masks on site.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizer must be provided at reception, and guests should be informed verbally and in writing about the COVID-19 measures upon check-in. Individual decisions by hotel management may apply when it comes to suitcases, such as disinfection and bellboy services. Guests will also be encouraged to make payments online or by card to minimize contact. Keycards must also be regularly disinfected.
Measures for hotel rooms
Frequently used equipment in the rooms, such as kettles, televisions and AC unit remotes, must be disinfected regularly. Where applicable, bathroom and kitchen amenities should be disposable. Some hotels have also ensured that the checked-out rooms are left unoccupied for at least two to 24 hours before the next guest arrives and steam machines are used to disinfect all visible surfaces.
When it comes to elevators, hotels have employed varying practices, but the general consensus is that a maximum of two to four people are allowed and handles and elevator buttons are frequently disinfected.
Measures in kitchens, restaurants
It is very important that the places you dine in have a COVID-19-safe cleaning protocol. The areas where equipment is placed and surfaces on which food is prepared must be cleaned regularly. Tables at restaurants should be at least 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart from all directions and at least 1 meter of distance must be between chairs. Before and after service, equipment and seating areas must be disinfected. Instead of self-service beverage machines and open buffets, a designated server must tend to guests' needs. Frequently handled objects such as salt and pepper shakers, sauce bottles and napkin holders on dining tables must be wiped down. Glass dividers must be placed between guests and food at buffets to prevent contact. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer or disinfectant must be regularly provided to guests and staff.
Measures at swimming pools, beaches
Chlorine levels must be between 1-3 parts-per-million (ppm) in outdoor and open pools, and between 1-1.5 ppm in indoor pools. Chlorine levels must also be frequently monitored. Toilets, showers and changing rooms around the pool and beach must be regularly disinfected. Sunbeds must be rearranged to accommodate social distancing rules on the beach and around the pool, and the measures taken in the swimming pools and the beaches should be listed.
Measures for fitness and spa areas
Saunas and Turkish baths should be used a maximum of 30 minutes by each guest, and the area should be cleaned for at least 15 minutes after use. Some hotels have shut down such services altogether out of fear of contamination. Hotels that do have these areas open must keep records of all the guests that use them to inform them later on if a positive case is detected. Disinfectants should be provided at spa facilities and gyms. Proper air quality with advanced air filtration systems should be provided and humidity levels should be regularly checked. Disposable products such as bath gloves, and soap and shampoo containers should be single-use. The surfaces of equipment used in spas and at gyms should be wiped down frequently.