Are we really going on holiday this summer? The EU has published guidance on opening up tourism and transport in Europe. But the coronavirus reality is not going away any time soon.
After months of lockdown (except Sweden), most of us are thinking ahead to the summer holidays.
But how realistic is it to dream of holidays when most of us haven’t left our neighbourhoods in months, borders are closed and airlines are largely grounded?
There’s a huge job ahead for governments, health experts and the travel industry.
It matters because holidays are good for our health. And tourism is worth €787 billion to the European economy.
Opening up is proving much more difficult than shutting down.
And a glance that those countries ahead of us, like South Korea, show the risks are still there.
Because there’s still no cure to coronavirus.
The only way of cutting the disease, until we have a vaccine, is to isolate ourselves to cut off human to human transmission.
Millions of people travelling back and forth, crisscrossing the continent does not square with that.
“Europe is now opening up, step by step”, the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen wrote, optimistically, in a tweet today.
There are some hopeful signs in a few places.
Germany and Austria hope to reopen their shared border a month from now.
There are reports that Greece might soon let Brits visit again.
And in the next few days a ‘Baltic bubble‘ is being established as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania open up to each other.
The EU says we are currently in ‘phase zero’ with severe restrictions, especially at borders. The plan is to get beyond that.
Neighbouring countries, or regions, should reopen where there are “similar epidemiological situations”, the EU says.
That means a low number of cases, hospitals standing ready to cope in case of ‘flare-ups’, and structures in place to ensure people can travel from A to B whilst still social distancing.
Those countries about to open borders will be a test for the rest.
German chancellor, Angela Merkel, warned today that the progress made in controlling the outbreak could all be lost if we don’t remain cautious and keep up the basics like hand washing.
It seems highly likely that masks, and probably temperature checks, are going to become the norm, particularly for air travel and on trains.
Journeys could be rather arduous.
What about when we get to our destination?
That’s also not going to be quite the same. Crowded beaches are a particular no-no. Any hotspot from museums to mountain hikes, from the sea to city breaks, will have to be carefully controlled.
“Hotels and restaurants, beaches and other tourist sites need to run in a way that minimises the risk of passing on the coronavirus”, says European Commission’s Vice President, Margrethe Vestager.
“Of course, this is not going to be a normal summer, for any of us. But when we all work together and do our part…we don’t have to face a summer stuck at home – or a completely lost season for Europe’s tourist industry.”
Any holiday plans will come with risk this summer, she said.
Maybe staying home isn’t so bad after all.