The European Commission unveiled plans to save Europe’s summer vacations, proposing the gradual lifting of travel restrictions and border controls throughout the EU for summer.
Since the pandemic, most EU countries have limited people’s movement, with ‘non-essential travel’ being restricted, as well as imposing quarantine measures.
Brussels wants to start thinking about lifting such restrictions but has suggested detailed guidelines to keep travellers and workers safe.
While the EU is keen to save what it can of the summer season, EC vice-president Margrete Vestager admitted it will “not be a normal summer”.
The European Commission proposes an approach in phases which “starts by lifting restrictions between areas or Member States with sufficiently similar epidemiological situations.” So citizens of countries with similar levels of infections should be able to travel more freely.
There should also be enough capacity in hospitals, as well as testing, surveillance and contact tracing capacities in place for tourism to start again.
How should travel change?
All crossings should have “containment measures” in place, where social distancing cannot be respected.
The EU recommends buying tickets and doing check-ins online.
Fewer passengers should be allowed to board vehicles, and passengers not from the same household sit apart and face masks should be required.
Beyond this, sanitising gel should be freely available during journeys. Food/drink should not be served aboard.
The proposals say that in areas which would expect a big wave of tourists, that the areas have sufficient health system capacity “in place for local people and tourists so that in the event of a sudden increase in cases, primary care, hospital and intensive care services are not overwhelmed”.
At the destination
The guidelines also state that the health of guests and workers must be paramount for tourism to return. All tourism staff should receive training on prevention and be able to recognise COVID-19’s symptoms.
The EC also recommends operating with fewer staff.
Maintaining social distancing in hotels and restaurants could mean allocating slots for meal times.
The choice remains up to each EU country on which of these recommendations they apply.
Vouchers versus refunds
The EU has faced a tough battle between passengers and airlines over the latter issuing vouchers instead of a full refund when a flight has been cancelled. The EU executive insists that refunds will remain the safety net for passengers.