People need a “chance to get some well-needed rest, relaxation and fresh air.” This is a sentiment we all likely share, as does the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union. The EC included that phrase when it released its plan to help reopen Europe following the COVID-19 global pandemic. While most EU borders remain closed to international travel until at least mid-June, the EC’s plan starts with inter-Europe travel, and are non-binding recommendations and guidelines. European countries still have the final decision, so travelers are advised to check the restrictions of the countries they plan to visit. According to the EC, “blanket restrictions of free movement are replaced by targeted measures.”
To start, the EC recommends lifting restrictions between member states with similar epidemiological situations, and to remain flexible with the possibility to reintroduce measures should the need arise. Actions should be determined based on the following criteria: epidemiological, the ability to apply containment measures and economic/social considerations. It is also advised member states allow travel in a non-discriminatory manner, meaning they should allow travel from all areas, regions and countries with similar epidemiological situations.
General principles need to be applied to travel via air, rail, road and waterway, including limiting contact between employees and passengers; reducing, where feasible, passenger density; and the use of personal protective equipment. For hotels, the EC recommends preventing lobby gatherings, staggered reservations in restaurants, constant cleaning and physical distancing.
In order to resume tourism activities, the EC’s recommendation is based on the following criteria: epidemiological evidence; a health system capacity in place to treat locals and tourists; and a robust system of surveillance, monitoring, testing and contact tracing. For the tracing apps, they must ensure cross-border interoperability, and be voluntary, transparent, cyber-secure and able to operate across borders, among other guidelines.
When it comes to refunding travel, while vouchers or monetary refunds are allowed, the EC pushes to ensure vouchers remain the viable, more attractive alternative, encouraging people to return at a later date. Learn more about the plan here.
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