Europe’s top travel organizations have called on the European Union Member States to effectively align travel restrictions in the light of another COVID-19 wave, set to hit the continent in the following weeks.
In a joint press release, the European Travel Commission (ETC) and World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), supported by a number of key travel stakeholders, have warned that restrictions on the freedom of movement could put at risk almost 900,000 jobs in the sector, and wipe off a staggering €35 billion from the region’s economy this year.
According to Julia Simpson, President & CEO of WTTC, a properly coordinated response across the EU is vital in order to restore the confidence to travel and not create more uncertainty
“The vaccination rollout across the EU is among the best in the world with 65 per cent of the population now fully vaccinated. We cannot afford to let all the hard-earned progress made this year be reversed. This will have catastrophic consequences for jobs and livelihoods,” President Simpson said.
She also urged the EU countries to continue putting into use the EU Digital COVID Certificate, asserting that the same has so far successfully enabled fully-vaccinated people to travel safely.
The ETC’s President Luís Araújo joined Simpson in her call, also urging the EU governments to work together amid the increasing number of cases as the year-end holidays approach.
“We must avoid any further uncertainty or fragmentation. With the high vaccination rates, EU COVID Certificate and strict safety protocols in place, safe travel is absolutely possible. In the lead up to the highly anticipated holiday season, EU citizens need clear and coherent rules,” President Araújo said.
The call comes at the time when the majority of the EU countries have tightened travel restrictions and enforced the use of COVID-19 vaccination and recovery passports in order to access indoor areas as bars, shopping centres, museums, etc. Some of the member states have even made COVID passports mandatory to access university campuses and public sector workplaces.
Amongst the harshest measures were imposed by the Austrian authorities after Austria entered into a full lockdown on Monday, November 22. The same is supposed to last for a period of 20 days until December 13. However, if the situation improves, the lockdown will be lifted after ten days.
On the other hand, Norway has reintroduced the obligation to register before reaching its territory for all travellers, including Norwegians and those vaccinated against COVID-19.
Bulgaria has expanded its high-risk list with 14 more EU and Schengen Area countries, which means that travellers from these countries now face tighter entry restrictions when travelling to Bulgaria.
Currently, Europe has some of the highest COVID-19 rates. Data by the World Health Organization (WHO) show that in the last seven days, Europe’s rate of Coronavirus infections per 100,000 population is 262.8, while the global rate is 46.1.
The continent has, however, some of the highest vaccination rates in the world, in spite of the situation. Based on data published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), 65.5 per cent of the total population in the EU/EEA are fully vaccinated.