1. Coronavirus Has Not Gone Away
The Number One thing to remember as borders open and life begins to return to some semblance of normal, is that Coronavirus has not gone away. There is still no vaccine, so there is nothing to halt the spread of the virus other than keeping up social distancing, hand washing and wearing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) such as masks.
Such precautions are all that stands between each one of us and infection.
Keeping infection free is all that stands between each country and a dreaded second wave and re-instatement of lockdown.
Beware the Second Wave
Already, Beijing, India and some US states report a resurgence in cases of Covid-19, along with a number of other countries around the world.
A second wave could lead to another lockdown. As Mark and I can attest from our experience in Italy, this can come into force very quickly; in Italy’s case, it was overnight.
In considering a trip, each of us needs to determine whether the benefits of travel outweigh the risks that you might face or impose on others.
2. Is it Safe or Ethical to Travel?
On 15th June 2020, Europe opened its Schengen borders. Flagging economies will undoubtedly welcome tourist dollars. However, the virus is still a clear and present danger, so it is paramount that in choosing to travel, you do not put yourself or others at risk.
If you have elevated risks from contracting covid-19, travel at this time may not be advisable.
In my view, if Europe is open for business and you can eliminate the risk of infection or transmission, I see no ethical reason not to travel. However, it is up to each individual to make their own assessment of the risks and abide by Government advice. (Currently, for UK nationals, overnight stays at home and foreign travel are not an option, see below.)
3. Find A Safe Way to Travel
A. Self-Sufficient Transport & Accommodation
This summer, it looks like caravans and motorhomes will be king. They provide transport, accommodation and restaurant rolled into one, and you are fully in control of the cleaning and hygiene.
In the UK, Auto Trader reported in June that the number of people viewing caravans on its website is up 18% year on year. 33% of 2,000 respondents in their survey stated that they are considering a holiday in a caravan, and according to Car Dealer magazine, the increase in demand means caravan prices are on the rise.
The UK caravan clubs report more than a 30% increase in pre-bookings, even though there is no set date for campsites to re-open. The Caravan and Motorhome Club has announced a phased re-opening of its UK campsites from 4th July 2020, provided that a green light is given by the UK Government.
US statistics suggest that more than 40% of Americans will opt to travel on the road this summer.
B. Channel Crossings
UK-Europe ferries have suspended passenger services at this time. Once they resume, measures will be in place to ensure customer safety. Click here for Brittany Ferries’ 12 Point Guide to Sailing Safely.
Eurotunnel offers ready-made social distancing, since you do not leave your vehicle during the crossing. Eurotunnel was offering free, no-questions-asked refunds on bookings made up to 17th June. Keep a lookout, since I am sure that this kind of offer will be a feature of many companies as they try to woo back tourist dollars.
4. Follow Government Advice
A. UK Domestic Travel
- At present in the UK, overnight stays away from home are not permitted. Click here for the latest Government advice on UK travel.
- The devolved areas of the UK (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) have different rules on the easing of coronavirus lockdown, so check with the relevant government or tourist board website before travel to these regions.
- Due to limited healthcare resources in some parts of Britain, hordes of tourists are not welcome in the current situation. For example, the Welsh Tourist Board urges you to ‘Visit Wales. Later.’
- As mentioned above, the Caravan and Motorhome Club has announced a phased re-opening of UK campsites from 4th July 2020 conditional on UK Government advice. Click here for the full list of CMC campsites set to re-open and details of measures taken by the Club to keep customers safe and mitigate the spread of coronavirus.
B. Foreign Travel for UK Nationals
- Travel Advice – Current UK FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) advice is against all but essential foreign travel.
- Compulsory Quarantine – From 8th June 2020, all arrivals to England by any means (air/road/sea) will be forced into a compulsory 14-day quarantine, with the exception of certain frequent travellers, such as lorry drivers and healthcare workers. This is not a voluntary arrangement, it is enshrined in criminal law and breaches carry a hefty, £1,000 penalty. Curiously, it is much more stringent than the measures that were in place during the height of the pandemic; for example in quarantine, you can only go out to shop for food if you have absolutely no other means of getting it. The measures far exceed the 7-day voluntary isolation for those showing symptoms or who have tested positive for covid-19. Even more curious is that currently, no regulations have been published outside England, despite the UK Government website claiming that this a UK-wide approach. So theoretically, if you arrive in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland…
- Travel Corridors – the UK Government has been under immense pressure to open ‘Travel Corridors’ between the UK and countries with low infection rates. An announcement is expected on 29th June 2020.
5. Follow Local Advice
The coronavirus pandemic is a fluid situation. Check the local and international news daily for updates, such as spikes in infection, and adhere to local guidelines, such as wearing face masks in public areas.
- Click here for a link to the French Government’s advice and requirements
- Click here for a link to the Spanish Government’s advice on coronavirus.
- Click here for a link to an interactive world map showing which borders are open.
6. Check Your Insurance
If you choose to travel against UK FCO advice, your travel insurance is unlikely to be valid.
However, once travel resumes, you must check what is and what is not covered by your insurance policy. In post-covid times, insurers consider coronavirus as a ‘known event’, of which travellers should be aware. As such, they may not cover coronavirus-related issues, such as delays and cancellations, covid-19 illness and related complications or expenses incurred if you find yourself in quarantine and unable to return home.
7. Carry A Face Mask & Hand Gel
- Face Masks – in many parts of Europe, it is mandatory to wear a face mask in public places. Don’t let this lull you into a false sense of security, however. Face masks have limited value in protecting you; they mainly help to prevent the spread of the disease to others. Face masks can become contaminated; hand washing and social distancing should still be practised. Click here for the WHO (World Health Organisation) advice on the correct use of face masks.
- Hand Gel – is much less effective than hand washing with soap and water, which flushes away the virus. However, sanitising gel is useful when hand washing is not an option, such as following contact with high-traffic surfaces such as water taps, petrol pumps or supermarket trolleys. In order to be effective, hand sanitising gel must contain at least 60% alcohol.
8. Avoid Areas with Increased Risk of Transmission
How Coronavirus Spreads
Coronavirus spreads via droplets. When an infected person exhales, coughs or sneezes, these are emitted from the nose and mouth. These droplets can infect another person directly, or be picked up from where they land on objects and surfaces around the infected person. If you touch contaminated objects or surfaces, then touch your eyes, nose or mouth, you can become infected.
How to Reduce the Risk of Infection
The risk of infection and transmission is much greater;
- Indoors, in enclosed spaces
- With prolonged contact
- In crowds
- Close to people who are coughing and sneezing
Protect yourself by maintaining social distance, avoiding busy destinations and sitting oudoors in restaurants and bars.
One of the benefits of touring in a caravan or motorhome is having your own, private loo and shower. If you do not, ACSI lists nearly 800 campsites with private, individual sanitary facilities
Note that wild camping (not using an official campsite or aire) is illegal in many European countries. If you do choose to wild camp, check that it is legal, do not cause a nuisance and dispose of waste responsibly.
9. Pre-Book Your Campsite
Previously, Mark and I rarely booked campsites. This gives us the flexibility to change our mind, follow the weather, move on if we don’t like the look of the place or stay if we do.
Remember what I said about the Caravan Being King? Demand is likely to be high this summer and to maintain social distancing, campsites may limit numbers. A booking also allows the site to notify you in case of a sudden closure.
So, on our next trip, we will be changing the habit of a lifetime and booking ahead!
10. Social Distancing If You Have a Dog
The CDC (Centre for Disease Control) states that, ‘the risk of animals spreading covid-19 to people is considered to be low.’ However, the CDC suggests preventing pets from interacting with people outside your household, since pets can act as a surface from which the virus can be spread. Mild covid-19 infection has been reported in a small number of animals after contact with infected persons, but evidence suggests that your pets are not at real risk from coronavirus infection.
My suggestions are;
- Ask people not to pet your dog. Be polite, but firm.
- Keep your dog on a lead and maintain social distance around other people.
- Avoid crowds and choose less busy times for walkies.
- After petting your dog, always wash your hands and avoid touching your face until you have done so.
- Keep your dog’s bedding, toys, bowls, collar and grooming kit clean. Click here for some tips on cleaning common doggie items.
- If you are infected with covid-19, isolate from your pet as well as people.
In Conclusion – Our Risk Assessment
The decision to tour is a personal one. Mark and I have decided to take the slow road home from Italy, since we cannot currently return to the UK. Here is our risk assessment;
- We Can’t Go Home to the UK
- With our house rented out and all campsites closed, we have nowhere to go into the compulsory quarantine imposed by the Government on all UK arrivals.
- The draconian measures, which require those in quarantine not to go outdoors, would be difficult with four dogs.
- We Are Confident That We Pose No Risk to Others
- We have been isolated in a remote, Italian, mountain village for four months, with a zero infection rate in the entire region. We are supremely confident that we are not carrying the virus.
- By travelling in a caravan, effictively our own self-contained accommodation, we can easily limit contact with people.
- We prefer to tour off-the-beaten-track. Our hobbies; walking, watersports and cycling, all take place outdoors and we can choose destinations to avoid crowds.
- We Won’t Be At Risk Ourselves
- We intend to limit our exposure to crowds and take every precaution when contact with others is unavoidable, such as food shopping etc.
- We are in good health and do not have underlying medical conditions that would make us susceptible to infection or prone to complications.
- If There is a Second Wave
- We can isolate safely in the caravan.
- We are not on a timescale – we don’t have to get back for work, for example, so we will be able to wait it out.
Having considered all the angles, we feel justified in our decision to tour and are very much looking forward to being back on the road!
Please note that coronavirus is a developing situation and all information in this blog is subject to change. Please check for the most up-to-date information before you travel. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of writing and where possible, the links are to official or government websites, however, all information is used at your own risk, please see my disclaimer.
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