Europe travel windows are closing

(CNN) – Holiday lights are going out across Europe.

Just weeks after many countries opened their borders to travelers on the mainland, some have closed again, often at such a short notice that people are scrambling to get home before quarantine orders are put in place. .

Such confusion, often coupled with acrimony and threats of retaliation from countries that feel unfairly added to so-called ‘red lists’ of dangerous Covid-19 destinations, looks set to undermine efforts to save the vital summer tourism economy in Europe long before the hot sunny months. cooled in winter.

A week after Croatia was taken off the UK’s safe country list, potentially preventing tens of thousands of UK tourists from enjoying the sparkling blue waters and pretty islands of the Dalmatian coast, Switzerland has become the latest victim.

From Saturday 29 August at 04:00 GMT, anyone arriving in the UK from the highlands will be subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

The decision was announced after 300 new cases of Covid-19 were reported in Switzerland, which hosted 1.6 million Britons in 2019, over a 24-hour period.

The Czech Republic, which saw a 25% increase over three weeks, was also added to the UK’s “red” list, along with the Caribbean island of Jamaica, where weekly cases per 100,000 rose from 4.3 to 20.8, the equivalent of 382%, in just seven days.

A Briton whose wedding was to take place in Prague on Saturday was among those affected by the British government’s decision.

Oliver, 38, who wanted to be referred to only by his first name, told the PA Media news agency that many of his family and friends had to return home and miss the ceremony to avoid two weeks of quarantine.

“I lost about 30 guests and my little sister, who is a bridesmaid, is upset that she has to go home tonight before the wedding (she is a teacher),” he said.

These latest travel changes come just weeks after Croatia was on red list, by Slovenia, its second tourist nationality, and Austria.

France was added to the UK’s dangerous list earlier this month, prompting howls of protest from both legions of British holidaymakers who see staying with their neighbor as an annual rite of summer, but also from the French authorities who threatened to take reciprocal quarantine measures on arrivals from the UNITED KINGDOM.

As a result, many vacationers traveling between Europe’s once wide open internal borders must now decide to postpone, cancel or continue their trips and resign themselves to two weeks of self-isolation upon their return.

Meanwhile, the destinations driven by a resurgence of tourists are now back to square one.

A list of “safe” destinations outside the bloc was quickly established, as various countries began to open up their borders, such as the United Kingdom, which established “travel lanes” between England, Wales and the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland and destinations like Spain, Germany and France.

Quarantine U-turns

Travelers from Croatia will now be subject to a 14-day quarantine upon arrival in the UK.

JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP via Getty Images

Of course, the guidelines were always “subject to change,” but no one could have predicted when and how often they would be changed in the weeks that followed.

One of the first major reversals came weeks later, when the UK pulled Spain from its list of safe destinations due to rising infection rates, a move that caused panic among some tourists and the condemnation of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who called the movement “unjust”.
“We are seeing governments fall back on quarantine measures as a way to fight the coronavirus,” says Paul Charles, CEO of the travel consulting firm PC agency and a former member of the Quash Quarantine campaign group, which previously tried to pressure the UK government to lift general restrictions on all arrivals to the UK.

“And that’s not the answer, because it prevents people from traveling. It prevents the return of growth.”

Authorities have also warned of more uncertainties to come. Grant Shapps, Britain’s Transport Minister, who was surprised by the change in quarantine rules while on vacation in Spain, said on Thursday all travel windows were subject to sudden closure.

“Only travel if you are content with an unexpected 14 day quarantine if necessary (I speak from experience!),” He said, via Twitter.

Global approach

A general view of the old town of the city of Dubrovnik on the Adriatic coast of Croatia

Croatia has been removed from the UK’s list of “safe” destinations.

DENIS LOVROVIC / AFP via Getty Images

Although the decision to add or remove a country from the quarantined traveler lists is based on the infection rates collected by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, this ultimately means that a blanket ban is imposed on an entire destination, including regions lightly affected by the virus.

For example, the UK’s decision to reinstate its mandatory two-week quarantine for arrivals from Spain came after an increase in infections on the continent.

Madeira, an autonomous region of Portugal with little more than a 100 infections reported at the time of writing, has also fallen victim to this holistic approach.

This has proven to be a source of frustration for both potential travelers and those in the travel and tourism industry.

While Charles understands this discontent, he says applying different restrictions to different parts of a country, which Norway has chosen to do for parts of Denmark, Sweden and Spain, can be confusing. for travelers.

“If governments take the route of regional corridors or island approaches only, I think that could add more confusion,” he adds. “,

He thinks the solution is very simple – more effective Covid-19 testing.

Charles argues that travelers should take at least two tests. The first being on their arrival at the airport and the second a few days later.

“Governments need to invest more in testing,” he says. “It is cheaper for them to invest more in testing than to suffer the massive financial inconvenience of the impact of quarantine measures on an economy.

“When you quarantine the vast majority of healthy people, it drastically affects productivity.

“It affects the recovery and further damages the economy as a whole.”

Double test

Medical staff perform a Covid test on passengers at Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport on June 15, 2020 in Athens,

Allowing travelers to take Covid-19 tests on arrival helps avoid long periods of quarantine.

Milos Bicanski / Getty Images

He cites Iceland as an example of a European destination that is right when it comes to testing.

The first test is carried out on arrival at the airport. If it is negative, the visitor must still self-isolate for five to six days, before taking a second test. If this result is also negative, they are given the green light to move freely in the country.

However, if the test comes back positive, they should continue to self-isolate.

Aviation services company Collinson and logistics company Swissport recently proposed a similar system for Heathrow Airport in London which would make 13,000 Covid-19 tests available to passengers every day, with results “within hours”.

The proposed device, intended for travelers from countries deemed “at high risk”, would require newcomers to take a second test at home.

Those who pass both will benefit from an early exemption from the 14-day quarantine.

“The tests will not only avoid the ‘quarantine roulette’ that so many passengers have faced in Spain and France, but it will also open flights to key trading partners such as the United States, Canada and Singapore, ”said Heathrow Managing Director John Holland-Kaye. A declaration.

“The government’s own research shows that a double test has a high level of accuracy in screening for Covid-19.

“This facility is a ready-to-go opportunity to see how Britain can safely reopen, as other countries are doing.”

A potential ray of sunshine for UK travelers and the European tourism industry has been the UK’s recent move to lift restrictions on arrivals from Portugal, essentially opening a new travel window.

The decision was welcomed by the Portuguese National Tourist Board, which issued a statement saying that the decision “reflects the reality of the situation in Portugal much better”.

It remains to be seen whether this will create a resurgence in travel between the two countries. As travelers struggle to keep up with changing rules – the UK has since added Cuba to its ‘safe’ list – many are growing increasingly frustrated and confused. Few are likely to be willing to bet on the possibility of spending 14 days in quarantine.

“The problem is that the quarantine measures kill travel and effectively tell consumers that the borders are closed,” adds Charles.

“No business or leisure traveler will choose to go somewhere where they have to quarantine themselves for 14 days before they can do anything.

“The only alternative is the test, to allow people to move freely in a country.”

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