How to enjoy safe road trips in COVID19

Hitanshu Gandhi  
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Yes – you can safely restart road trips amidst COVID19. Here’s my simple checklist of things to do to stay safe!

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Some of us love travel. Whether it is nature, history, architecture or simply food – travel is a way to reinvigorate the soul. If you are willing to take ~30-40 min of precaution every day of the trip – I can help you finally be out of the house and doing what we truly love doing.

I just returned from a weekend stay at Club Mahindra Kumbhalgarh. Here’s how I kept myself and my family safe:
a. Choose the right hotel:
– Ideally choose a hotel room with windows that open and independent AC (Club Mahindra ticked this box)
– If there’s central AC – go there only if you can open the windows
– If you cannot avoid a central AC stay where windows are locked – go there only if they have upgraded their ventilation and ideally installed UV lights in their AC ducts. Railways moved from 25% to 50% fresh air, higher target temperature (23 vs 27) and twice as many air changes per hour.

Select hotel chains that are known for great operations / service (Club Mahindra or highly rated OYO Townhouse for instance). Only they have the diligent staff that would stick with COVID SOPs. Your run of the mill economy vacation place would not.

b. Eat in the open – else order the food in. Avoid AC restaurants
– At Hotel Highway King, I paid for takeaway but sat outdoor in the mild drizzle to eat my lunch.
– Club Mahindra had a lovely buffet with sanitized cutlery (in a UVC device!) which was handled by their own staff. They were happy to set up a chair table in the balcony. If you’re an early bird try landing up when the restaurant opens, take any table next to a big enough window and open it!

c. Disinfect key surfaces in the room upon entry – microwave / switches etc. Even if you don’t it is fine – these surfaces are not as high touch as a church pew. We didn’t ask them to make up our room for our 2 day stay.

There is NO need for sanitization theater – there is no need to sanitize your luggage handles or have hotels sanitize your car doors!!

I place far more focus on sanitizing my hands more frequently. Also, build habits to operate lifts or open doors using your elbows, shoulder or feet.

d. Take off your mask only when at a suitable (3-4+ m) distance from anyone else even if outdoors.

If you’re truly terribly paranoid and at risk – sanitize your nose while you’re at it. YMMV – ideally speak to your doctor.

Addendum:

Using public toilets:

I acknowledge that there are significant aerosol concerns around COVID19 but they are all manageable.

The infection math is simple:
Risk = Exposure instances X Degree of exposure (mask/surface contact) X Duration X Riskiness of the place

Thus – minimize your loo breaks, ventilate before using them, and avoid crowded loos in active use (think Mumbai T1 arrivals!!)

Let’s break this down:
a. You still wear masks in the washroom – so the aerosol concentration doesn’t matter per se. Its just 10 min. This risk is problematic in flats where people use the toilet without mask unknowingly inhaling the fumes of their vertical neighbors. Mask solves it!
b. The constant in/out movement ensures that it is ventilated far more than regular AC spaces such as a restaurant. The surface I disinfected myself – I carry my own toilet paper and spray sanitizer for this very purpose.
c. Here you can disperse the aerosol manually even at the risk of appearing like a mega OCD weirdo.
I opened and closed the main door of the bathroom and then of my particular stall twenty times apiece to increase ventilation, before going in.

Did I eliminate the risk? No
Did I minimize it to a level I don’t care about it? YES!

Think about it – in a trip of 3 days, I used public toilets twice. That 15-20 min exposure after ventilation is much less than what any Indian government employee faces today. Its a risk but one I have minimized well.

Here’s another hack – don’t go to the #1 restaurant out there. e.g The Amrik Sukhdev dhaba in Murthal on the Delhi Chandigarh highway. Go to a nice but not the very best one -e.g Kanak Garden in Murthal or Zilmil in Karnal

Hitanshu Gandhi, 10th September 2020, Gurgaon

Note: this was cross-posted on Team-BHP at https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/route-travel-queries/226888-how-enjoy-safe-road-trips-during-covid-19-a.html

Annexures:

Air conditioning improvements by Indian Railways

Air conditioning safety measures by Quorum Club

The fact on food safety in COVID via Zomato