Europe, in July? The prospect of travelling to the EU may seem the most distant of dreams. You may deem it insensitive even to discuss holidays.
The relentless daily arithmetic of the devastation caused by Covid-19 implies yet more families mourning loved ones, with UK fatalities likely to exceed 20,000 this weekend.
Yet with every day that the coronavirus crisis drags on, those with the fortune to be safe and healthy are inevitably contemplating what happens next.
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Given some of the pessimistic pronouncements on lifting the UK lockdown, by July, you and I may not even be able to reach our nearest airport, sea port or railway station to begin the journey.
Easing off the brakes in Britain – allowing you to make a journey to whichever of coast/countryside/city you are missing the most – is just the first of a series of hurdles.
Several more stand between you and that beer at the corner table of a harbourside bar, in a land where the temperature hits a sweet spot at around 6pm and trade is conducted in drachmas, lire or francs (that’s right, isn’t it? It’s been a while…).
Travelling abroad for a holiday, or on business, or to reunite with a lover who hopefully hasn’t forgotten your name, would be inappropriate while the Foreign Office warns against non-essential travel anywhere beyond the UK – that advice is currently, and infuriatingly, “indefinite”.
There is no certainty that the warning will be relaxed at the same time as lockdown in Britain. But by the last day of June it will be 15 weeks since the first blanket ban was announced. It would surely be absurd to continue to warn against venturing to, say, Ireland, into July.
The next barrier: does the destination country want you?
Cyprus, Denmark, Germany and the three Baltic republics are among the European Union countries currently admitting only their own citizens or residents. And France will allow you in only if you qualify for an “exempted international movement certificate” (spoiler alert: you almost certainly don’t).
The fragmented responses to coronavirus belie the accusation that the EU has accumulated too much centralised power. There will be little synchronicity in opening frontiers: each government will walk its own tightrope between the desire to protect the population and the wish to limit the economic damage.
The next hurdle: will an airline/ferry company/cruise line be prepared to take you? You certainly won’t be sailing to the Baltic or the Mediterranean in July with P&O Cruises or Cunard, since both cruise lines have cancelled all departures until August.
With every day that goes by, millions more pounds drain from the airlines, ferry firms and train operators that you rely upon to reach Europe – and the more timid they will be when proper operations start up again.
They can best staunch further losses by limiting capacity, keeping costs down and prices up.
And don’t forget your passport: its validity is eroding each day, and half a million have expired since lockdown began.
Suppose everything lines up. The most critical question is: if you can go, will you?
In a snapshot Twitter poll I conducted on Thursday, with more than 5,300 votes, 55 per cent said they would not.
If you, like me, are instead in the minority of enthusiastic travellers, let me buy you a beer at my harbourside table. There should be plenty of space.
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