Will We Be Able to Head to the Mountains of Europe This Summer?

Despite a hugely successful vaccine roll out in the UK it is not so in much of Europe. There is talk of vaccine passports, but with the virus mutating and spreading some say borders may be closed with tourist travel banned.

Scientists and politicians have been casting doubt this weekend on whether people from the UK will be able to head to mainland Europe this summer for a holiday.

Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Spi-M modelling group has said there is a danger travellers could bring back new variants of coronavirus.

He said summer holidays abroad were “extremely unlikely” in an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“I think we are running a real risk if we do start to have lots of people going overseas in July and August because of the potential for bringing more of these new variants back into the country.”

“What is really dangerous is if we jeopardise our vaccination campaign by having these variants where the vaccines don’t work as effectively spreading more rapidly.”

It remains illegal for people from England to take a holiday abroad until at least May 17th.

In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon agreed that foreign travel would “not be achievable before 17th May,” adding that “it may well not be possible for a further period after that”.

People can currently travel abroad for a limited number of reasons, such as education or work, with anyone who does having to fill in a “Declaration to Travel” form stating a valid reason for leaving the country.

Travellers who return to the UK from permitted work assignments or long-term spells abroad have to quarantine.

Prof Dirk Brockmann, from Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, said Britons should not consider European holidays when lockdown restrictions are eased.

He said that “International travel would allow new variants to distribute themselves.”

The UK Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, is less clear than the scientists and said it was “too early to tell” when holidays abroad would be allowed.

He said any return to international travel would need to take into account the situation in destination countries.

The events in Europe were “concerning”, he said.

“I very much hope they’ll get on with the vaccination programme – it has been quite stop-start as we’ve seen up until now.”

The government’s Global Travel Taskforce is due to provide an update on the situation on 12th April.

The UK has given a first vaccination to 50% of all adults, but Europe is lagging far behind.

It has given a first jab to just 12%.

In Austria the figure is 9% and Switzerland it is 6.5%.

“What is really dangerous is if we jeopardise our vaccination campaign by having these variants, where the vaccines don’t work as effectively, spreading more rapidly,” said Dr  Tildesley.

Cases of coronavirus are on the rise across the ski and mountain nations of Europe with many countries extending measures or introducing new restrictions.

We have reported on in recent days as it affects some of the ski nations in Europe:

Here at PlanetSKI we remain poised to head to the Alps and Scandinavia to do some summer skiing and enjoy the mountains in the summer.

If conditions allow.

Chamonix in the summer

Chamonix in the summer. Image c/o PlanetSKI.

Airlines UK, the trade body for UK-based airlines,  said it was “too early” to predict what the Covid situation would look like in 10-weeks’ time.

It said it is working with the government “on a framework for travel that is robust and workable, and can stand the test of time”.

“We have always said any reopening must be risk-based, but also led by the overriding assumption that as the vaccine rollout accelerates both here and abroad, a phased easing of restrictions is achievable.

“We know that universal, restriction-free travel is unlikely from 17 May but under a tiered system, based on risk, international travel can meaningfully restart and build up, with minimal restrictions, in time.”

Innsbruck airport

Innsbruck airport. Image c/o PlanetSKI.

Of particular concerns are the known virus variants, and those likely to come.

All viruses mutate as they make copies of themselves to spread and thrive.

There are thousands of different versions, or variants, of Covid circulating but there has been particular focus on those first found in three countries: South Africa, Brazil and the UK.

  • A Brazil variant (also known as P.1)
  • A South Africa variant (B.1.351)
  • A UK or Kent variant (B.1.1.7)

Some fear new variants may even affect travel to the mountains next winter, but it is far too early to tell.

Future vaccination campaigns might need to be considered to tackle future variants, but “the longer that we can push that down the road… the better,” said Dr Tildesley.

Already there is much talk of so-called ‘vaccine passports’.

Austria has broken ranks with other EU members and says it will introduce one next month.

The card will be for vaccinated people as well as those who have recovered from the virus and who have tested negative.

It is hoped it will help re-start tourism and gets the country ahead of an EU initiative announced this week.

The Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, has been an enthusiastic supporter of the passport.

Few details have been released but it is thought to be similar to the so-called ‘Green Card’ issued in Israel.

“We don’t want to wait for implementation at European level,” said Chancellor Kurz.

In Austria it is also expected to allow people to attend bars/restaurants, events and fitness centres.

The Health Minister, Rudolf Anschober, is overseeing the project and his department has already started work on the legal preparations.

The tourism industry has welcomed the move with the Tourism Minister, Elisabeth Köstinger, saying the plan would allow Austrians to head abroad and people to visit Austria again.

For international travel much relies on the roll out of the vaccine across Europe, and the spread of coronavirus with its mutations.

Vaccine passports will only be of used for international tourists if travel is permitted.

Summer in the mountains

Summer in the mountains. Image c/o PlanetSKI.