Hopes for a summer holiday in Europe suffered a fresh knock today after the EU’s coronavirus chief warned that opening up will take ‘some time’.
Dr Andrea Ammon, director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), said she could not be certain about when restrictions may be lifted to allow international travel.
She told Irish think-tank the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) that ‘reopening in the way we were in 2019 will still take some time’.
Dr Ammon added: ‘Reopening in a way without all these restrictions will depend on how quickly we can roll out the vaccinations and how effective the vaccine is protective in the longer run.’
Meanwhile, aviation bosses have urged the Government to ensure that popular European destinations face the least onerous restrictions when holidays are permitted again.
Restrictions are being eased across the UK after months of lockdown and a successful vaccine rollout combined to drive down coronavirus infections, hospitalisations and deaths.
But there has been past criticism over perceived failures to properly guard against cases coming in through the borders and ministers have indicated they will take a cautious approach.
Under the new traffic light system for England, travel to countries in the lowest ‘green’ category could be opened up to quarantine-free travel from May 17.
Arrivals would be required to take a pre-departure test as well as the gold standard PCR test on or before day two of their return to England. They would only need to quarantine if they receive a positive result.
The government has said it will categorise destinations green, amber or red after depending on vaccination rates, coronavirus infections and the prevalence of variants of concern.
It could see countries like the United States and Israel placed on the ‘green list’ immediately.
However, with much of Europe in the midst of a third wave and lockdown restrictions being re-imposed, there are concerns that popular European destinations, such as the beach resorts of the Costa del Sol in Spain or the Greek islands, may end up on the ‘amber list’.
That would require travellers to self-isolate at home for up to 10 days on their return.
Chris Garton, chief solutions officer at Heathrow Airport, told lawmakers in the House of Commons: ‘We would like to see the green category as expansive as possible.’
He added: ‘We understand from a health perspective it’s a proceed with caution time …. but if we err to much on the side of caution then you will have some very devastating effects on the travel sector and the aviation sector.’
The aviation industry around the world has been hammered over the past year with passenger numbers down around 95% from pre-pandemic levels.
Travel to Europe will play a crucial role in the industry’s recovery so any delay in putting popular holiday destinations in the green category would spell further financial difficulties.
EasyJet Chief Executive Johan Lundgren said he ‘would expect almost all major European countries’ to be put in the low-risk category immediately.
Lundgren said he’s optimistic that many of easyJet’s core markets in Europe will make the cut as the rollout of vaccines picks up pace, adding: ‘I wouldn’t see a reason why you wouldn’t have the majority of the countries of Europe in there.’
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