(Post last edited on March 28, 2020)
With so much news out there about Covid-19 (the new Coronavirus), it is hard to get a balanced view of the situation. Although an increasing number of countries and areas are putting restrictions in place, and some of those will affect some, perhaps many, of our tours and cruises in 2020, it is too soon to tell which of them will be affected.
Where outright travel bans do not apply, the decision whether to travel or not obviously lies with you. Since there is quite a lot of misinformation and alarming (some might say sensationalist) news coverage, we want to share information from reliable sources with you.
As members of AITO, we are briefed with the latest information on a daily basis as soon as it is released, and we will continue to monitor the situation closely.
Currently, most governments advise against any non-essential travel outside their borders, including those of the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and most recently the US. Italy remains the only country for which the UK government has issued country-specific advice of this type.
As of Friday, March 13, the United States are imposing a travel ban on incoming visitors from the EU's Schengen Area, covering 22 EU members and 4 additional countries, as well as the United Kingdom and Ireland. The ban, scheduled to last 30 days (until April 12), is subject to modifications. It does not apply to travellers coming from Croatia (unless they have been to the Schengen Area in the 14 days prior to travel) and it also exempts US citizens travelling to the United States, who are, however limited to 13 entry airports in 12 states (see list), where they undergo screening procedures.
Likewise, on March 17 the European Union has introduced a 30-day entry ban for visitors from outside the EU (for non-essential travel), with exceptions for the United Kingdom, Ireland and the non-EU members of the Schengen Area, as well as for citizens of the individual member states and residents returning to their homes. Of course, individual members of the EU or the Schengen Area have the sovereign right to impose additional restrictions at any time.
Outright travel bans or border closures usually apply only for non-essential travel and normally don't apply to nationals or residents of the respective country, whereas quarantine/isolation rules generally do. Additionally, several of our destination countries are applying various local or nationwide restrictions or lock-downs (all of these are potentially subject to modifications, including extensions).
In Croatia, a stringent nationwide lock-down is in place and social distancing is obligatory. Travel within the country is severely restricted and most vehicular traffic, public or private, is suspended, as are some ferry connections, while those operating are restricted to permitting residents of the islands or peninsulas on their itineraries. People are required to stay in their homes, except for necessary activities. Museums, cultural venues, schools, places of worship etc are closed, as are restaurants, bars, cafés, and so on. Some airports are closed, visits by cruise-liners are blocked, and the borders are generally shut for foreign nationals, with limited exceptions, in which case 14 days of self-isolation (or in case of having visited specific areas, including all of Italy, the same duration of full quarantine) is obligatory and will be supervised by the authorities (for a full list, see under 'reliable sources' below). The EU entry ban for non-essential travel (see above) applies.
In Greece, a nationwide lock-down is in place and social distancing is obligatory. Travel within Greece is severely restricted and ferries only permit residents of the islands on their itineraries to embark. People are required to stay in their homes, except for necessary activities. All museums and archaeological sites are closed until March 30 (for now), as are cultural venues, schools, places of worship etc. Restaurants (except delivery and take-out), bars, cafés, hotels and most shops are closed. Flight connections with countries including the UK, Turkey and Italy are closed, as are the land borders with Albania, North Macedonia and Turkey. Cruises originating in other countries are also not allowed into Greek ports until further notice. For the moment, Greece requires any arrivals to undergo a 14-day domestic isolation. The EU entry ban for non-essential travel (see above) applies.
In Ireland, a stringent nationwide lock-down is in place and social distancing is obligatory. Travel within the country is severely limited. All state-owned cultural institutions, including museums, parks and so on, remain closed, as do other public venues, pubs, restaurants (except delivery and take-out) and non-essential shops. As far as possible, employees, especially of non-essential businesses, are required to work from home. Schools and universities are likewise closed and places of worship must restrict numbers. Arrivals from overseas are obliged to undergo 14 days of self-quarantine. The EU entry ban for non-essential travel (see above) applies.
In Italy, a stringent nationwide lock-down is in place and social distancing is obligatory. Travel within Italy is severely restricted and people are required to stay in their homes, except for necessary activities. All museums and archaeological sites are closed until April 3 (for now), as are cultural venues, schools, places of worship etc. Restaurants (except delivery services), bars, cafés and most shops are closed and most non-essential businesses are on hold, except for employees working from home. Most flights between the UK and Italy have been suspended and this is also the case for connections with most other European countries and the US (see above). The EU entry ban for non-essential travel (see above) applies.
In Turkey, there is a ban on flights arriving from multiple countries until April 17, including Italy, Germany, France and the UK, and residents from those and many other countries are not permitted to enter the country (for a full list, see under 'reliable sources' below). All visitors undergo temperature screening on arrival. There are some restrictions on public gatherings and over 65-year-olds are required to stay at home. Most public monuments and museums are closed, as are most non-essential shops and all restaurants, bars, cafés, places of worship etc.
In the United Kingdom, a lock-down is in place and the government requires social distancing, including working from home if possible. Restaurants (except delivery services), bars/pubs, cafés (etc) and all shops not providing food are closed, as are museums, cultural venues, archaeological sites, parks, schools, places of worship and so on. There are restrictions on public transport services in London and elsewhere.
We will continue to monitor the situation and will review trips that are due to commence after certain dates, closer to the departures.
It is important to be careful. The simplest and best way to protect yourself from the virus is to ensure that you thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water several times every day, especially whenever you have been in physical contact with potential carriers of the virus (objects or people), and to use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser gel in situations when you cannot wash your hands with soap and water. It is also recommended that you keep your hands away from your face, especially your mouth, nose and eyes. These are common-sense precautions that people should follow generally, and especially during the annual flu season. Better safe than sorry is an adage that certainly is useful now.
Likewise, you should keep in mind that the virus can probably be transmitted by those who have experienced no symptoms yet. This is important. In your dealings with others, you should behave as carefully and considerately as possible, and you should assume that you could be spreading Covid 19 if not careful.
If you can cover your mouth and nose with a mask while in contact with others (especially outside your home), that's good, but you should not acquire any such equipment unless you are are sure that the doctors and nurses in your area have sufficient access to it. Masks are vital to those whose work is providing health care. For those who are not in that kind of job, they are advisable, especially to protect others from your own sneezes and coughs. If you are crafty, you can make your own mask: there are countless websites with instructions, patterns and so on.
Generally, Covid 19 can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease, and if you fit into one of these categories, you may want to seek medical advice before you travel.
Regarding travel insurance, we have been informed that as long as your government does not advise against travel to the area where a tour is running, your insurance will cover you, but we always recommend checking particulars with your insurance provider.
As this is a dynamic situation, we prefer to give you direct links to webpages where you can read more about the situation to help inform yourselves from reliable primary sources. We do not generally recommend mainstream or social media as sources.
You can access the latest travel advice for Greece at the following locations:
You can access the latest travel advice for Turkey at the following locations:
You can access the latest travel advice for Italy at the following locations:
You can access the latest travel advice for Croatia at the following locations:
You can access the latest travel advice for the United Kingdom at the following locations:
You can access the latest travel advice for Ireland at the following locations:
If you are in any way concerned about joining one of our trips, please contact us so we can discuss your options. We always aim to be as understanding and fair as possible.
A personal note from Peter Sommer Travels
Whether you have travelled with us before, or whether you have found our page recently, we would like to see you on one of our our future trips and share the unique Peter Sommer Travels experience with you. If that is not currently an option, why not browse this blog and our website to see what we might have in store for you in the future?
Meanwhile, we advise you to do what is needed wherever you are. Do follow the guidance you are given by proper and informed sources, avoid content that is not sourced, and stay calm. Most importantly, stay well and safe.