The COVID-19 pandemic was unprecedented in terms of the scale, duration, impact on medical systems and subsequent closure of borders and cessation of travel. It is important to note that several other endemic or epidemic outbreaks of disease, including other coronavirus (SARS, MERS) have occurred in the previous two-decades without as virulent a spread or significant public health response.

The next outbreak of endemic or epidemic disease does not immediately indicate that all travelers will need to return home, or that all programs will be cancelled. However COVID-19 has demonstrated that the worst case scenario – what if all global travel immediately ceases – can occur and should be planned for. Temple has taken these into account when setting forth it's standards for international group travel.

  • Overwhelmed Medical Infrastructure: Epidemic and pandemic diseases can compromise even the highest quality medical systems and overwhelm systems that are poorly resourced. No location can be presumed incapable of failing.
  • Lack of Insurance and Fiscal Planning: Medical and security evacuation insurance does not cover incidents of endemic, epidemic and pandemic disease. Travelers and programs should have financial continuity plans inclusive of supporting return travel.
  • Reliance on Local Health Systems: Individuals contracting the corresponding disease will rely on the local medical system and the public health regulations of their host country.
  • Restricted Medical Evacuation: Border closures significantly impact medical evacuation due to other illness or injury.
  • Vaccination Inequity: The development and disbursement of vaccinations or other remedies will not be equal, expediting return travel to some locations while hindering resumption in others.
Travel and Immigration
  • Localized Public Health Response: Within a global pandemic, individual countries retain sovereignty in managing their public health response.
  • Rapid Changes in Requirements: Host-country public health and related immigration standards are subject to frequent and rapid change requiring consistent monitoring and adaptation. At the height of COVID-19, protocols consistently changed within two-week intervals. 
  • Non-uniform Standards: Immigration restrictions were not standard, and were impacted by the nationality of the traveler, current and prior travel destinations and in some instances, transfer airports.
  • Preferential Bias for Certain Individuals: Host-country immigration restrictions favor continuity for certain classes. Individuals with established, collaborative research connections and those traveling on student visas were often permissible entry exceptions long before those traveling on tourist visas. This heavily impacted the viability of short-term individual or group travel programs.
  • Required Vaccination: Host-country and host organizations can enforce vaccination requirements or significant restrictions on unvaccinated individuals.
  • Seek Official Guidance: Always source guidance from trusted, official government or trans-national organizations. Government ministries of public health, immigration and foreign affairs were the official references for immigration changes. This includes waiting for Department of Homeland Security guidance on changing U.S. immigration requirements. Transnational resources such as IATA provided official collation of global protocols, requirements, and travel restrictions.
  • Comprehensive Border Closures: Borders can/will close with rapid speed and persist for months. In the emerging stages of a pandemic travelers should be prepared to depart their destination rapidly while commercial aviation is still operational.
  • Do Not Rely on U.S. Government Evacuation: It is not the responsibility of the U.S. government to coordinate an evacuation. When evacuations are coordinated, they are only available to those who are U.S. Nationals or LPRs. The cost of the evacuation is charged to the individual traveler. Coordinated evacuations can only occur with consensus of the host country. Evacuation from remote spots, or those from distance from international airports, were exceedingly complicated.
Academic and Fiscal Continuity
  • Financial Continuity for Operational Continuity: Group programs should have contingency plans and funding for additional housing due to illness or quarantine.
  • Financial Continuity for Expedited Departure: Individual and group travel should have contingency funds for rapid departure.
  • Pre-determined Academic Continuity: Academic programs abroad require pre-determined contingency plans for if/how course content and credit can be delivered if the program is cancelled or suspended.
  • Research Continuity at the Forefront: International research topics should include planning and preparation for sudden, long-term inaccessibility to local populations, facilities, and resources.
  • Established Relationships Facilitate Continuity: Resumption of travel is considerably more feasible in those locations where Temple has significant, established connections for housing, transportation, and other logistics. This facilitates collaboration on meeting both institutional and host-nation public health requirements.