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COVID-19 Lockdown Policy and Tips for Travelers in Europe & U.K [Updated 24 March]

COVID-19 Lockdown Policy and Tips for Travelers in Europe & U.K [Updated 24 March]

TripBlog
Mar 24, 20203,6551

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the current outbreak of COVID-19 a global pandemic. The WHO declaration is an important acknowledgement by the world’s leading public health agency that the outbreak has entered a new phase with active transmission chains on several continents. Since the novel coronavirus first appeared in China in late December, 2019, it has had a major impact on trade, travel, and transportation the world over.

Table of Contents

Current Developments
Situation in the United Kingdom
Situation in Italy
Situation in France
Situation in Spain
Situation in Germany
Situation in Other European Countries
WHO Recommendations for International Travelers
· Perform hand hygiene frequently, particularly after contact with respiratory secretions. Hand hygiene includes either cleaning hands with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand rub. Alcohol-based hand rubs are preferred if hands are not visibly soiled; wash hands with soap and water when they are visibly soiled.
· Cover your nose and mouth with a flexed elbow or paper tissue when coughing or sneezing. Dispose immediately of the tissue and perform hand hygiene.
· Refrain from touching mouth and nose.
· In some cultures, masks may be commonly worn. If masks are to be worn, it is critical to follow best practices on how to wear, remove and dispose of them, and on hand hygiene after removal.

Europe and in particular Italy are facing significant health challenges. Authorities have responded with a series of travel restrictions and enhanced public health measures. While not as stringent as those issued by the Chinese government, the European regulations present a significant burden for those currently traveling or who intend to do so in the near future. In this short article, we will detail measures now in place in major European countries as well as offer some general recommendations for how travelers can stay safe while abroad.

Current Developments

On March 17, 2020 leaders from European Union member states agreed to temporarily close the bloc’s external borders to all non-residents for the next 30 days. Healthcare professionals and those transporting vital goods are exempt from the ban. While in effect, no non-essential travel is permitted into the European Union. The EU collectively took this extraordinary action for the first time in its history as cases of COVID-19 continue to spread rapidly in several countries including Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The external border closure comes as individual member states have begun erecting their own travel restrictions, threatening the integrity of the Schengen Agreement that allows for passport-free travel between EU member states.

Major airlines based in Europe including Air France, Ryanair, British Airways, and Lufthansa have all announced some form of flexible cancellation or rebooking. Travel restrictions around the continent have resulted in tens of thousands of flight cancelations. Travelers should check the latest information from their airlines regarding changes to normal operations. Keep in mind events are unfolding rapidly.

On March 12, 2020, the United States announced a ban on arrivals from 26 countries in Europe’s so-called Schengen Area. The ban applies to “entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the Schengen Area during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.” Across Europe the situation on the ground varies widely at the moment.

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Situation in the United Kingdom

UK is banning people from leaving their home from Mar 24. Prime Minister issued stay-at-home order, sending UK into lockdown. People will only be allowed to leave their home for the following very limited purposes," he added, listing four reasons for which citizens can go outside; shopping for basic necessities, doing one form of exercise a day, providing medical services, or going to work if it is absolutely vital.

If you are currently in the United Kingdom, stay informed about local conditions and any recommendations local authorities are providing beyond standard WHO prevention guidelines.

British Airways announced they will not charge fees to change any booking made from March 3 to May 31, 2020.

Situation in Italy

Italy remains the most-impacted country in Europe. The number of deaths and new infections continues to rise at an alarming rate. Movement in public places except for justifiable work reasons such as commuting or transporting goods, securing basic necessities (i.e., food shopping), and health emergencies is prohibited countrywide. Bans on public gatherings (including sporting events) will be in effect nationwide until at least April 3, 2020.

Italy’s hugely popular Serie A domestic football league has suspended all games for the time being and suggested the rest of the season may be canceled. Temperature screening will occur at airports and train stations throughout the country. Passengers arriving or departing will need to produce proof that their travel is essential. In essence, this means leisure travel is no longer possible in Italy. Everyone is expected to remain where they are and isolate themselves. The government has ordered the closure of bars, restaurants, and all shops except those selling basic necessities.

If you are currently living or traveling in Italy, you need to observe the government regulations regarding travel. These require individuals to fill out a travel declaration form available from the Italian Ministry of Health stating the purpose, duration, and details of their travel. All persons should limit contact with others and maintain a safe distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet). Travelers currently in Italy may find themselves prevented from returning home or be required to undergo mandatory quarantine depending on current health regulations at their destination. Always be sure to check with authorities in your home country and obey local advice and restrictions.

Situation in France

Cafes, restaurants, cinemas, and most shops throughout France are shut. The French government has announced a near-total lockdown on movement within the country. Anyone moving about in France is now required to carry and produce for inspection a form indicating the specific purpose and duration of their travel. French law enforcement has indicated they will impose fines on people found violating the lockdown for non-essential reasons.

Travel proof like this is required if you need to go out.

COVID-19 Lockdown Policy and Tips for Travelers in Europe & U.K  [Updated 24 March]

Plane, train, and bus services between cities will all be reduced in the coming days. Disneyland Paris will close from March 15. An information system has been set up in airports, train stations, and other contact points to facilitate travelers receiving updated news on prevention and containment measures.

The French government is presently recommending against all non-essential travel to impacted countries and regions including Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao, Singapore, South Korea, Iran, and Northern Italy. Travelers currently in France should shelter in place and continue to practice WHO-recommended actions including frequent hand washing, avoiding confined spaces with poor ventilation, and avoiding touching your face. Air France has announced travelers who booked flights before March 31, 2020 to any destination may postpone their departure at no charge until May 31, 2020 at the latest. The carrier also announced plans to reduce flights by 70-90% over the next two months.

Situation in Spain

The Spanish government has formally declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus, placing the country in lockdown and ordering people to stay at home unless they have to buy food or medicine or go to work or hospital. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced that, “During the state of emergency, people will only be allowed out on to public streets for the following reasons: to buy food, basic or pharmaceutical items; to attend medical centers; to go to and from work; to look after children, older people or those with disabilities or who are especially vulnerable; and to attend financial or insurance offices on force majeure grounds.”

The country’s largest case cluster is in the capital Madrid, with additional clusters in the Basque Country, Catalonia, La Rioja, and Andalusia. Travelers currently in Spain should monitor local information and remember to wash their hands frequently while practicing WHO-recommendations for social distancing. Avoid crowded areas such as religious gatherings, festivals, or sporting events. Spain’s domestic football league has suspended play. No further La Liga games will occur for at least the next two weeks. Neighboring Portugal has likewise halted play in its Primeira Liga.

Situation in Germany

The German government has announced land border closures and banned entrants from France, Switzerland, and Austria. Germany’s federal structure and historical aversion to centralized power mean the country’s coronavirus response is being managed by the German states. Currently, there are known COVID-19 clusters in Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, and North Rhine-Westphalia. Travelers arriving in Germany from Iran, Italy, Japan, or South Korea must provide information on their trip and on where they can be reached for the 30 days after arrival. Those arriving from China must provide additional information including persons with whom they’ve been in contact. Theaters, operas, and concert halls across Germany are closed, with some providing online streaming of performances played to empty venues. The German government has banned all gatherings of more than 2 people and implemented country-wide recommendations against unnecessary travel. The state government in Bavaria has issued a lockdown order for all residents.

The German national air carrier Lufthansa has announced 23,000 flight cancellations for April. Travelers holding Lufthansa worldwide tickets purchased through March 31, 2020 can take advantage of a one-time free rebooking to a new departure date on or before December 31, 2020. Lufthansa Group member Austrian Airlines has announced it will suspend its entire flight schedule starting March 19 until at least March 28, 2020. Passengers holding Austrian Airlines tickets will be rebooked on other carriers, if possible. Lufthansa said it will maintain some flights to US destinations including Chicago, Newark, and Washington, DC. All other services to the US will be canceled until further notice.

Situation in Other European Countries

Schools in the Netherlands are set to close and all restaurants, bars, and sports clubs have also been ordered to close until at least April 6.

Belgium has told citizens to avoid going out. All non-essential shops and open-air markets will close and people will be expected to work at home.

In Ireland, all pubs and bars have been ordered to close.

Russia announced the closure of its border with Belarus.

Ukraine has said that it will close its borders entirely this week in order to prevent further transmissions of the disease.

Austria tightened restrictions on public life by banning public gatherings of more than five people, closing restaurants, and calling on people to self-isolate as coronavirus cases in the country continued to climb. Austria is also denying entry to travelers from the U.K., the Netherlands, Russia, and Ukraine and expanding measures in place for Italy and Switzerland.

WHO Recommendations for International Travelers

Travelers who are sick should delay or avoid travel to affected areas. This is particularly true for elderly travelers and people with chronic diseases or underlying health conditions. General recommendations for personal hygiene, coughing etiquette, and keeping a distance of at least one meter from persons showing symptoms remain particularly important for all travelers. All persons should:

· Perform hand hygiene frequently, particularly after contact with respiratory secretions. Hand hygiene includes either cleaning hands with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand rub. Alcohol-based hand rubs are preferred if hands are not visibly soiled; wash hands with soap and water when they are visibly soiled.

· Cover your nose and mouth with a flexed elbow or paper tissue when coughing or sneezing. Dispose immediately of the tissue and perform hand hygiene.

· Refrain from touching mouth and nose.

· In some cultures, masks may be commonly worn. If masks are to be worn, it is critical to follow best practices on how to wear, remove and dispose of them, and on hand hygiene after removal.

Travelers returning from affected areas should self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days and follow the current health protocols in their destination country. Some countries may require returning travelers to enter quarantine. If symptoms occur, such as fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, travelers are advised to contact local health care providers, preferably by phone, and inform them of their symptoms and their travel history.

Staying vigilant and practicing these simple precautions will dramatically reduce the likelihood you contract COVID-19. Keep your wits about you and consult expert information from the WHO or your country’s infectious disease specialists. COVID-19 continues to spread and the risk remains high. However, there is no reason to panic and the best advice is to begin following the sensible precautionary measures outlined above.

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