We all know by now that 2020 hasn’t been the year we were hoping for, job losses in an already tight market, recessions and oh, yes, a virus that maybe be deadly for certain immuno-compromised persons has hit countries worldwide and forced governments to impose drastic measure such as travel bans and the temporary closure of HORECA in order to contain the spread of COVID-19. For example in my home country, Romania, people weren’t allowed to leave the house without a signed paper while Spain required children to stay indoors the entire day, in Scotland and Wales people could go outside for a walk only once a day and had to stay within a five-mile radius. All these measures worked, for a while. But as people’s patience started to waver, so did the politicians and finally they gave in and re-opened EU’s borders. This was a very risky move and might have a strong impact on how our winter is going to look like, we now see that numbers are going up fast in some regions and data on high risk areas changes overnight because new clusters form rapidly.
An important note I would like to make is the eagerness of some people to ignore all the health risks after they’ve experienced months in home confinement. The Deutsche Welle report on the 10.000 Germans going on vacation in Spain (needless to add that this happened right after the lockdowns in a highly affected area of Europe) left the locals feeling “used as Guinee pigs” on one hand, and on the other hand made the local businesses happy that they can finally go back to their “normal” life. There isn’t a clear answer on how should we handle this crises at the moment, but one thing I keep asking myself: isn’t this our own responsibility to travel locally and safe?
The European Union has launched an initiative in order to keep the population informed and up to date with the local restrictions as the attempt to open all borders at once somehow failed. Who would have thought that letting people move freely without restrictions would not stop the virus from spreading? I guess nobody saw this coming even though the Belgian national virologist warned against mindless travelling this summer holiday.
I have to give special credits to the EU’s disclaimer statement that says:
“Disclaimer: The information on this page is not exhaustive. It is based on the most recent available data provided by EU Member States and collected from other publicly available and authoritative national sources. While the Commission seeks to keep the information up to date, we take no responsibility of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness and accuracy of the information contained in this page or individual decisions based thereon.
You can reach out to us by e-mail: JRC-REOPEN-EU@ec.europa.eu
Due to the frequency of the updates, aimed at offering relevant information at all times, this tool partly relies on automatic machine translations. We apologise for any inconvenience and we strive to continuously improve the user experience.”
I understand the followings from this: they don’t take any responsibility for the data introduced on their website, thus making it very dangerous to rely on it if you do plan to go anywhere and you should consult a multiple governmental information before travelling between countries. Information that you should check constantly and even hours before your departure to make sure you won’t be quarantined upon arrival.
I would like to give some reflections from my own experience regarding travelling in the times of COVID-19. There is no secret that I adore Germany and I find it one of the most beautiful countries in Europe, thus I always take the opportunity to visit it on any occasion I am given. Once the borders opened, I was very thrilled I could finally spend some time reconnecting with my favourite place, but I was also very anxious about the implications and potential consequences. Thus, I decided to travel responsibly in a somewhat remote area in the Eifel region in the stunning village Monschau - luckily there were few tourists at the time I was there and my contacts were very limited. It’s been absolutely magical to get away from Brussels and enjoy the nature in a calm and peaceful idyllic place and I believe it’s been worth it. I do think that going away for few days is refreshing and it can give you a boost to keep going, but we shouldn’t forget the current situation either. This week I cancelled my “would have been” first solo trip to Koblenz because my new home, Brussels, became a high-risk area overnight as stated by the Robert Koch Institute. It was too late to present a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival and also even though I adore Germany, spending 14 days quarantined might still not suit my idea of travelling. In this time, we must make sacrifices for the common good, it’s not about me or you, but about us. We must overcome this together in a responsible way. It’s difficult, I know. I calculated the ways in which I could have dodged the system and have my plans going through regardless of consequences, but in the end, I knew I would have hated myself and my conscious wouldn’t have allowed me to enjoy the Rhein valley that I so long so see.
On the other hand, I decided to pack my things and travel locally in the beautiful Ardennes and explore a remote medieval village that resembled Monschau so much. This pandemic has offered us the opportunity to travel locally and discover the beauties that lies under our noses, but if you still are making last minute escape plans, here are my advices:
- ALWAYS check the official websites regarding travelling: both of your country and the destination
- Make as little contact with older people as possible
- Choose a remote area without the risk of bumping into a crowd
- Enjoy the experience, Corona will pass eventually, but we must defeat it together.