It's hard to turn on the television or look at our phones or computers without being hit with a barrage of news about the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, which as of March 11, 2020, was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). That means that the disease has spread worldwide and is affecting a significant number of people.
This worldwide crisis is wreaking havoc on the travel industry and forcing many travelers to change their plans. Many are wondering if it is safe to travel to Europe. The short answer right now is no. Due to both travel restrictions and the risk of contracting coronavirus, it's a very risky time to travel to Europe. But remember that the situation is constantly in flux and it's certainly not permanent.
Here's a run-down of current restrictions, travel bans, airline cancellations, and advisories for travel to Europe.
The Risks of Travel to Europe
Europe was one of the first regions outside of China to reported cases of the novel coronavirus. The CDC placed a Level 3 travel notice on the U.K., Ireland, and 29 European countries while the U.S. State Department declared a Level 4 travel advisory on all international destinations on March 19. At first, when the cases were sporadic and seemed to be isolated, travel to Europe didn't seem like such a risky idea but as the virus spread, travel to and within Europe was quickly restricted.
Travel Restrictions and Closures in Europe
Europe was one of the hardest-hit regions, especially Italy, Spain, France. The EU enacted an entry ban on non-essential travel from non-EU countries on March 17 that will last until June 15. This essentially means that Europe closed its borders to non-EU citizens, exlcuding the U.K.
Additionally, many European countries entered lockdown in March and closed most, if not all, nonessential businesses. After months of lockdown, countries are restarting their economies and some, including Italy and Greece, plan to welcome tourists in the summer.
U.S. Government Advisories
The U.S. State Department has issued a blanket Level 4 Travel Advisory urging U.S. residents to avoid travel abroad, including to Europe. Prior to this, Level 3 and 4 warnings were already in place for Italy and several countries in Asia and the Middle East.
On March 11, the U.S. government announced a ban on incoming travel from 26 European countries—basically all of Europe. The ban prohibits foreign nationals from those countries (or who have visited those countries) from traveling to the U.S. As of March 16, that ban has been extended to include the U.K. and Ireland.
The ban is supposed to be in place for 30 days and excludes U.S. citizens, residents, and their immediate family members—they are still allowed to enter from EU countries. Our prediction in this rapidly changing climate? The ban could potentially be expanded to halt all flights from EU nations, meaning that if you were in Europe during this period, you might not be able to get back until the coronavirus situation calms down.
Postpone or Cancel Your Travel Plans (For Now)
Despite the urgent coronavirus crisis across the globe, the consensus among the medical community is that the virus will eventually run its course. Life will get back to normal, and we'll all be able to travel again. At TripSavvy, we encourage our readers to discover, explore, and appreciate destinations across the world, and we will continue to celebrate the joys of travel. But now is the time to suspend your travels—to Europe and possibly elsewhere—and stick to daydreaming and trip planning. Once the virus abates and travel warnings and bans are lifted, it will be safe to return to Europe and travel freely and securely.
European Commision. "Coronavirus: Commission invites Member States to extend restriction on non-essential travel to the EU until 15 June." May 8, 2020.