Our experience with COVID has laid the foundation for future disease outbreaks, but there will be one important difference next time: measures will be implemented far faster and more comprehensively.

As we head into the fourth year of COVID-19, much of the world has learned to live – and to travel – with the virus and its consequences. Bringing along a paper and digital copy of your vaccination record, spare face masks and the results of a recent nasal swab would sound a lot like science fiction to a traveller from 2019, but they have been the reality for the last three years.

In many ways, our current situation is a return to a world where major infectious disease outbreaks were a fact of life that could not be avoided. The threat of new diseases – COVID-19, mpox, MERS, Zika – has become part of the calculus of risk that people take in their everyday activities, including travel.

In the event that they cannot be avoided completely, then they must be mitigated through precautions, including knowledge of the dangers they pose. And unless they can be eliminated, some of the precautions put in place will remain as part of the new rules for international travel.

While there does seem to be cause for optimism about COVID-19’s trajectory in 2023, other novel diseases are sure to come along. When they do, you can expect authorities to use their COVID-19 response as a model: anything from health screenings and vaccine cards to closure of national airspace and entry bans for non-residents are all on the table.


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