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COVID-19 GUIDING PRINCIPLES

 

As an organization we will MONITOR, EVALUATE, and COMMUNICATE effectively in order to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. The following principles will be at the top of the mind when going through the planning and operating stages:

1. PROTECT

The vulnerable: people and communities.

2. MITIGATE RISKS

  • Symptom screening
  • Enhanced sanitation and hygiene, with a focus on hands.
  • Physical distancing and additional controls
  • Face coverings when physical distancing is not possible.

3. RESPOND TO

COVID-19 presence and other emergencies.

COVID-19 RISK MANAGEMENT STRATEGIC GOALS

There are five strategic goals that BLAS and partners will undertake within their operations which relate to COVID-19 risk management with safety as a priority, driven by our guiding principles.

1. CREATE TRANSMISSION BARRIERS

1.1 SOCIAL AND PHYSICAL DISTANCING

Reduce the number of people in a group whenever possible. Set social distancing parameters. Adapt operations and practices to allow appropriate social distancing and mitigate risks in other ways if social distancing is not possible.

1.2 SURFACE CONTACT

Reduce touchpoints or surface contact areas where possible.

2. ENHANCE SANITISATION

2.1 IDENTIFICATION OF HIGH TOUCH SURFACES

Define cleaning and disinfecting procedures and following manufacturer’s instructions for use of approved products. Identify cleaning frequency.

2.2 HAND WASHING

Regular opportunities to wash and sanitize hands.
2.3 CLEANING / SANITATION MEASURES

Rigorous cleaning measures in all areas within our control. Review of suppliers and providers for adherence to internal / national / international policies.

3. PROMOTE HEALTH SCREENING

3.1 PREVENTIVE

Who should be allowed to travel? Are there moral or ethical considerations (e.g. vulnerable populations, ability of the destination to receive these travelers and attend medical needs without stressing local resources?)

3.2 POTENTIAL

Inform staff and guests to stay at home if they have symptoms however mild, or are in a household where someone has symptoms.

4. PROMPT RESPONSES

4.1 ACTUAL / REACTIVE- If staff or customers test positive or have symptoms for COVID-19.
4.2 EMERGENCIES- Local EMS and medical chain assessments. Emergency Response Plan updated.
4.3 CANCELATIONS AND UNUSED SERVICES - Adapt a flexible cancellations policy.

5. PROTECT COMMUNITIES

5.1 GROUP SIZE AND TYPE Impact of group and trip on the community and medical resources.
5.2 MORAL / ETHICAL DECISIONS CONDUCTING TRIP Assess chance of being a vector / bringing in the disease.
5.3 VULNERABLE PLACES- Poor EMS / Medical chain of care. Low cases with high risk / vulnerable local communities.

SAFETY MANAGEMENT FRAMEWORK

Together with our partners/suppliers we will have a safety management framework in place to address COVID-19 risks. This plan will supplement to the extent necessary and not replace existing risk management plans, policies and practices. To develop this system, we will ensure that COVID-19 associated risks are mapped and analysed considering the variables applicable to the tour. There are seven “target areas” of safety and risk management we will consider, related to COVID-19 risk factors. The analysis of the risks under this framework, using ATTA COVID-19 Risk Assessment and Planning Tool provide operators, suppliers and providers a common language, objectively comparable risk levels and mitigating procedures, as well as transparency in communicating between stakeholders so decisions to operate can be made.

 

  1. TOUR LOCATION SCREENING- Travel restrictions. COVID-19 risk level. Local vulnerabilities and impact on communities and their resources.
  2. CUSTOMER SCREENING- Customer vulnerability. Type of groups. Prior exposure/medical declaration forms. Travel insurance.
  3. TRANSPORT- Transport to and from destination as well as local travel to and from tour location.
  4. HOSPITALITY- Accommodation. Restaurants and feeding.
  5. ACTIVITIES- Distancing. Equipment. Face coverings. Popular areas. Guide/Staff interaction.
  6. MEDICAL- Evacuation. ICU/Medical care assessment. Procedures for guests/ staff showing symptoms. Post operational procedures if guests/ staff show symptoms.
  7. COMPANY CONSIDERATION- Guide/Staff exposure before the trip. Guide/Staff training. Staff screening. Monitoring and Evaluation. Information flow. Informed Consent. Safety culture & compliance. Operational Capacity. Terms and Conditions – Refunds and cancellations, unused services, service denials.

RISK AND SAFETY FACTORS

We follow the ATTA COVID-19 Risk Assessment and Planning Tool which is designed to assist business in the adventure travel industry with a standardized template that can be used at all levels to assess whether a trip may be viable in relation to the COVID-19 related risks. It is not designed to give a definitive answer or direction as to whether a trip will be safe or appropriate to run. It remains our business responsibility to make an assessment based on our own unique facts and circumstances. The tool is split into different safety factors based on the COVID-19 Adventure Travel Target Areas that we will need to answer regarding how those factors affect our operations or particular trip that is being assessed. You Can visit the ADVENTURE TRAVEL TRADE ASSOCIATION (ATTA)  COVID-19 Risk Assessment and Planning Tool  by clicking this link; https://cdn.adventuretravel.biz/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Adventure-Travel-COVID-19-Risk-Assessment-1.xlsx . A summary of these individual safety factors are detailed below:

1. DESTINATION

Factors we need to considered in the trip destination.

  • DESTINATION TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS

Operations can only resume when there are no travel restrictions in place at the host destination or a business is able to comply with host travel recommendations. Travel advice will need to be assessed for the destination from the host government along with from country of origin, such as that issued by the United States State Department or Foreign Commonwealth Office. The assessment should include not only travel restrictions at destination, but restrictions that may be in place related to returning home.

  • DESTINATION COVID-19 SITUATION

An assessment into the current situation of the destination will need to be evaluated using the many official information resources available. This will constantly change as time progresses so will need to be reassessed when the situation improves, and case numbers and infection rates are considered low enough to resume travel.

  • AIRLINE RELIABILITY

If customers are needing to fly into the destination an assessment should be made on whether a safe, regular, reliable and viable service will resume. This should be factored for customers flying in from multiple destinations including return flights, should the customer need to take an unscheduled flight home. Customers will need to follow advice from the airline and any other local government regarding safety protocol, including the wearing of face masks or coverings.

  • DESTINATION TEST AND TRACE PROGRAM

Operators should determine whether or not the destination has enacted a Test, Trace, and Track program prior to operating. Operators should be aware of testing procedures and policies and should follow the current recommendations set forth by the destination. Operators should be aware that some destinations may require the use of a contract tracing app. Operators should advise customers of destination regulations (including privacy issues) prior to departure to ensure customer compliance during operation.

  • COMMUNITY IMPACT ASSESSMENT

The operator should make an assessment of how the trip could affect local communities to which it travels. A guiding principle will be to protect and guard small, remote or vulnerable populations that may not have been affected by the virus. It is also important to avoid over-stressing medical and health services in a destination, and to respect decisions made by communities who chose to not welcome visitors for a certain period of time.

  • OPERATOR’S ASSESSMENT OF DESTINATION COVID-19 SITUATION

An overall assessment will need to be made into the viability of resuming travel using the information available at the time of travel. As the situation progresses and improves this assessment will need to be constantly re-evaluated, and the Risk Assessment and Planning Tool has been created to help ATCs make careful evaluation.

2. CUSTOMERS

Customers should consider the following factors when evaluating a destination:

  • CLIENT RISK/VULNERABILITY

Certain groups are at a higher risk of presenting with more severe symptoms if diagnosed with the COVID-19. Prior to booking travel, customers may consult with their primary care provider and consult local and official advice to determine whether they should travel or not. Operators should evaluate the need to review the customer suitability for the trip based on the destination situation, whether the customer falls into a vulnerable or high-risk group for COVID-19 under health authority guidelines, with certain groups being at a higher risk of presenting with more severe symptoms if diagnosed with the Coronavirus. Consider having in place a new refund and cancellation policy for the COVID-19 period.

  • GROUP TYPE

There will be varying levels of risk associated with each trip and group type. A FIT or a family group from the same household will present less probability of virus transmission than a large group travelling from multiple destinations. Also, group members may have different sanitisation and social distancing comfort levels, which will need to be managed to avoid conflict.

  • COVID-19 PRECAUTIONS

Companies may provide customers with a COVID-19 waivers and declaration forms with information and questions relevant to COVID-19, such as client’s isolation habits, testing outcomes, or existence of signs or symptoms prior to the trip. Customers may also be advised to adhere to company policy whilst on the trip to include actions such as maintaining distance, respiratory and hand hygiene standards, and being honest with feeling any symptoms. Companies will need to amend their terms and conditions and refund and cancellation policies to allow for cancellations due to self-assessment, onset of symptoms, or last-minute advice against travel by healthcare providers. Consider whether to request this information (with appropriate measures in place to protect confidentiality) and to have travellers inform you only if they exhibit symptoms or have tested positively within a certain time frame.

  • TRAVEL INSURANCE

It is recommended that customers have valid travel insurance for the destination and trip type on which they are embarking. The pandemic has added additional complexities surrounding insurance as no policy covers all COVID19 travel risks and operators are not in a position to make coverage determinations as to what a policy may or may not cover. We will ask our guests that they check their policy carefully and ensure they understand who will pay for additional costs if incurred.

3. TRANSPORT

  • TRANSPORTATION RISKS

The use of vehicles to transport guests includes a higher degree of COVID-19 transmission risk. Measures to mitigate risk will be used whenever possible. Measures may include opening vehicle windows, providing space in between passengers and having passengers wear face coverings. Consider the use of face shields or the use of private vehicles for transportation as additional measures. There will be a different level of risk depending on the size and type of transport used. Suppliers will need to adhere to local governmental or official policy. They will need to ensure that enhanced sanitation measures are in place and social distancing can be implemented where practicable, which might vary depending on the makeup of the group. Added measures such as driver protection, Personal Protective Equipment - PPE (face coverings), hand washing, and health checks can all be implemented to reduce risk of possible transmission.

4. HOSPITALITY

4.1. ACCOMMODATION

Suppliers should adhere to local government and official COVID-19 guidance and protocols in the hotel and accommodation sector that mitigates the risks of COVID-19. Despite enhanced safety measures, virus risk will not be completely eliminated, and there will be a higher chance for possible transmission the larger the establishment.

4.2. FEEDING

Food suppliers should be asked to adhere to guidance and protocols, which will need to meet the local government or official guidance and policy to ensure the appropriate enhanced levels of hygiene, enhanced sanitation, and distancing measures are in place. There will be different levels of risk depending on food service type. Buffet and family style (common food containers) catering should be avoided.

5. ACTIVITY

There are a number of considerations that an operator, supplier, or provider should evaluate, and measures implemented to enable enhanced or different safety measures in light of COVID-19 but enjoyable running of the activity. Each activity is different with the nature of the pursuit, needs and safety of the participant and risk threshold of the organization, with many variables to consider. The factors below allow the user to simplify the assessment to the COVID related considerations. More detailed guidance can be found in Activity Specific guidelines at https://www.adventuretravel.biz/COVID19guidelines/

5.1. DISTANCING AND FACE COVERINGS

Each activity on the trip should be assessed on whether participants can remain socially or physically distanced to reduce possible risk of transmission. For some this takes place naturally and is thus low risk, such as trekking, cycling or horse riding, but other activities may be higher risk such as tandem paragliding or skydiving. Measures can be taken to limit the risk of transmission if distancing is hard to maintain or in enclosed spaces by using face coverings. The risk increases where distancing measures cannot be implemented and it is inappropriate to wear a face covering. Consider advising Guests to bring their own coverings or how to improvise on or example, use a well tied synthetic or cotton face mask, neck gaiters or Buffs. These measures may also need to be incorporated into the office environment.

5.2. ENHANCE SANITATION

Certain activities will use individual, group and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to enable the users to participate. All contact surfaces and touchpoints will need to have an enhanced sanitation regime to ensure that any possible traces of the virus are reduced, such as cleaning or sanitizing activity specific equipment which is used by guests. For some activities this may present a very low risk with little to no equipment used, but for some pursuits this may be difficult due to the nature and frequency of the equipment used (for example, a ropes course).

5.3. POPULAR AREAS

An activity that takes place in a popular area may pose a greater risk of social interaction with visitors or activity participants, thus increasing the chance of virus transmission. Operators where possible should assess whether other, more quieter destinations or areas can be visited, or if not, what measures can be put in place to reduce the chance of contact or interaction with other users.

6. MEDICAL CONSIDERATIONS

Despite all measures, there is always the potential for individuals to develop signs and symptoms of COVID-19 before or during tours. The vast majority of people infected with COVID-19 show minor to no symptoms, however some will go on to develop more serious signs which require admittance to a hospital, or an ICU. Operators and suppliers should assess these medical considerations and review their emergency response plan with these factors in mind:

6.1. EVACUATION

Definitions for when to separate and how to separate suspected cases need to be in place. Both in medical emergencies and in technical activity assistance or rescues, many pre-defined distancing methods need to be adapted or cannot be used. Suppliers and operators need to establish special procedures to address these risks and develop clear thresholds for when distancing procedures can be changed and what those changes will be. The more remote the activity the more complex and timely the evacuation. Consideration should be made for manner and method of evacuation, including a review and implementation of destination Emergency Medical Service (EMS) support.

6.2. LEVEL OF CLINICAL CARE

A review should be made of medical services with CCU/ICU capacity and appropriate mechanical ventilators that can be used should a customer develop severe symptoms and require this level of medical support.

6.3. PROCEDURES FOR GUEST / STAFF SHOWING SYMPTOMS

It is vital that health screening (including temperature checks, visual checks, and symptom checks) takes place to monitor guests and staff.  A plan should be made in accordance with the destination local government or official advice which may include testing, separation, or removal of symptomatic individual(s). The remainder of the group travelling with the suspected infectious guest/staff should be closely monitored for symptoms. At any time, staff or other travellers may choose to evacuate if they feel they are at risk.

6.4. POST OPERATIONAL PROCEDURES FOR GUEST / STAFF SHOWING SYMPTOMS

ATCs must have policy in place that includes transportation, care, isolation, and testing for guests or staff members who are COVID-19 symptomatic.  If suspected symptoms are shown in a guest or staff member, there needs to be a policy of what will happen with the transportation, caring, isolation and testing, if available for visitors in that destination. If the trip or activity allows for the immediate removal of the guest or staff along with any immediate member of the travel party such as a family member or those that share a room, and they can isolate and tested, this is a far lower risk than those that can’t be removed from the group. Companies need to abide by the destination local government or official policy with regard to other members of the group who have been in contact with the guest or staff member who has shown symptoms, along with any advice from the guests or company point of origin on protocols related to what happens if they show symptoms or test positive on completion of the trip.

7. COMPANY CONSIDERATIONS

7.1. STAFF EXPOSURE RISK PRIOR TO TRIP

If the trip or activity occurs in a destination or area with a reasonable risk of being infected with the virus, then it could be possible that the staff or guides are exposed to being infected prior to the trip commencing. Whilst this may be hard to control or enforce with guests, a company may require that staff abide by certain distancing precautions and measures to limit their chances of exposure.

7.2 SAFETY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

If the company already has an established and functional SMS, all the measures proposed here can be integrated in their existing system, as a safety management system that is running means they already have the framework required. This will include; risk inventories, Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s), trip and incidents reports, data analysis and improvement processes, screening, communication with guests, staff training and emergency responses. Terms and conditions will need to be updated with the refund and cancellation policies revised.

Our financial wellbeing has taken a good knock since onslaught of COVID-19 in March 2020! However, our clients health doesn't have to take a knock as well! In order to give room to an improved and COVID friendly environment BLAS is only taking enquiries and bookings for April 2021 going forward. We are hopeful the various WHO monitored vaccine initiatives would have produced that vaccine. BLAS and our Clients , together we will beat this!!