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By Brendan Seery

Deputy Editor


Holidaying hazards: From deadly viruses to flooding

Having committed so much money already, come hell (or virus) and high water, I’m going on holiday.


One of the things you can use travel for, is to “get away from it all” … leave your day-to-day cares behind as you enjoy new experiences and scenery.

These days, though, when the world is increasingly a borderless and shrinkingly small oyster, if you really want to get away from it all, maybe it just might be better to stay in South Africa.

With the coronavirus only starting to build up a head of steam, those dreams of a wonderful cruise to exotic destinations might wisely have to be put on hold. That’s because there probably is not better virus incubator in the world than a cruise ship holding 5 000 or more passengers and crew from dozens of countries.

I’ve been on cruises where there are crew members stationed at the entrances to dining rooms, to make sure you sanitise your hands from dispensers before sitting down to eat. That’s because, in the past, there have been cases of hundreds of people coming down with intestinal complaints from contaminated food or dirty hands.

Fair enough, but from what I understand, the coronavirus is one which can be carried in the air – that’s why everyone (civilians anyway) in the affected parts of the world is wearing face masks. Never mind, of course, that these masks are only effective for a limited time before they lose their air filtering ability.

Also, I do get perturbed when I see medical personnel in isolation wards at hospitals dressed up for a civilisation-ending plague.

Accepting that the virus can be transmitted in the air, no matter how much you sanitise your hands on a cruise ship, you are still at risk, because the ships these days all have sophisticated, but centralised, air conditioning systems which can’t filter out viruses. So even though you may retreat to your cabin, the lurgy gonna get ya.

You’re even worse off in the sealed airtight tube which is what an airliner is. Decontaminants cannot be flushed through those aircon systems in flight, so you’re still going to be sharing microscopic particles with 300 other people.

We’ve booked a trip in June to the UK to see my daughter, who is working as a vet in a little town in Wales. But every time we turn on Sky News, we see gloom, doom and despondency as people everywhere are either preparing to deal with floods, or cleaning up after them.

The Brits, I must admit, are pretty good at dealing with this sort of emergency and have been getting even better over the last 10 years, but I still worry about the state of the roads, particularly because we’re going to be driving around.

Then, although we’ve booked a few places to stay, it is obvious that, in the worst-hit parts of Wales, a lot of holiday accommodation has been damaged and won’t be back in operation for six months to a year.

That means, unless we book soon, then the demand which will exceed supply will drive up the prices of B and Bs and self-catering places. (And that’s not even counting to 20 to 1 rand-pound exchange rate…) More than anything else, though, I wonder what we’ll actually be like ourselves in just under four months’ time.

Will the virus have SA in its grip by then? Having committed so much money already, come hell (or virus) and high water, I’m going on holiday.

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