Status update February 2022 – Positive outlook for the Azores expedition in March/April

We are hopeful that the Azores expedition in March/April can go ahead for several reasons:

1. If South Africa and Britain are anything to go by, the omicron wave is short and sharp with those who are vaccinated at low risk of falling severely ill or having to be admitted to hospital. Despite high infection rates, health services are not being overwhelmed. These are all signs of the virus entering its endemic phase, alongside other endemic viruses such as the flu.

2. Restrictions are being relaxed or removed completely in many countries now, as governments realise we are entering a phase of having to learn to live with the endemic version of the virus.

3. Infection rates on the Azores are low and falling.

4. Travel to the Azores is currently not restricted and the requirements one has to fulfill to fly in are not laborious and what we have all become used to.

5. Almost all expeditioners on the expedition are keen for the expedition to go ahead.

In the interest of transparency for everyone, here are excerpts from e-mails to the Azores expedition team so that everyone can see how we are handling the situation and trying to move towards running expeditions again with the virus around:

30 January 2022

Dear expeditioners,

Following on from our e-mail below, a couple of people decided to defer, but these places were immediately taken up by new signups or people on the waiting list, so we still have a booked out, three group expedition on our books. Travel to the Azores is currently not restricted and the requirements you have to fulfill to fly in are not laborious and what we have all become used to – see https://www.visitazores.com/en/trip-info for more details. Infection rates on Faial are low and on a downward trend – see https://www.safecommunitiesportugal.com/type/situation-reports-acores/ for details. So the outlook is positive, especially if the collapse of the omicron wave in South Africa and Britain are anything to go by, as well as relaxation of restrictions in many countries now, as governments realise we are entering a phase of learning to live with the virus, alongside other endemic viruses such as the flu. Our plan at the moment is to all test for the first three days on the expedition at least and then again as required. Anyone testing positive must leave the expedition and quarantine away at their own cost, so make sure you have adequate insurance. We will also require you to bring your own antigen self test kits as well as FFP2 masks (we will provide details of what these are and where you can buy them locally to you). Make sure you bring them with you, as local supplies are limited and we do not want to strain island supplies for the local population. We will write all this up in a detailed document for you within the next couple of weeks and monitor the developing situation in parallel. If you at your end decide against participation based on your own risk assessment and what we say above, then please tell us NOW so that we can gauge how many people do not want to come and defer instead. If you have any other comments or questions, then please feel free to send them in also.

15 January 2022

Dear Azores expeditioners

You will no doubt be wondering whether the expedition will run this year. Our intention is to monitor the situation and start communicating with you again from mid Feb onwards, sharing our intentions and plans based on the latest information. We are cautiously optimistic, because the wave omicron causes seems to be steep and short with low hospitalisation rates. In any case, we believe that we now have to learn to live with the virus – as it will not go away – and as such develop procedures to run our lives – and expeditions – with it around. We will communicate whether and how we intend to do this for the Azores in month at the latest. If you have any questions or comments, please just press reply. If you have already decided you would prefer to defer for another year (see https://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/faq#coronavirus for how it all works), then please let us know also.

Illustration by Ana Kova

2 Replies to “Status update February 2022 – Positive outlook for the Azores expedition in March/April”

  1. Hi,

    We’re looking forward to the Azore expedition in April and plan on being there.

    Have a great day.

    Sheryl and Dave Fluetsch

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