Europe Is Closed To Americans, Canada Too. What’s The Human Side?

Aside from all of the fear over the past 90 days (wow, has it really only been a few months?) while the COVID-19 pandemic ramped up in the US, there have been so many interesting things to watch in the world of travel.  How does an airline go from full planes to virtually empty, with hundreds of planes grounded?  If you’re a government agency, how do you effectively enforce a quarantine?  These are very, very different issues than what we normally deal with.  And, now that people are starting to travel again, how exactly do you serve a safe hotel breakfast?  Amongst the most interesting questions to me is how we actually get travel started again?

Europe Is Closing Their Doors To US Citizens

It’s hard to believe that just over 90 days ago I was boarding a flight from New Zealand back to the US. While we were taxiing to the runway, President Trump announced that the US would close its borders to Europe to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  There wasn’t a lot of information, but there was a big rush for folks to get back to the US, whether they were citizens, green card holders or otherwise needed to be in before the borders closed.

Despite the sad news of Europe not welcoming US citizens when they reportedly reopen borders on July 1, there won’t be a similar rush to get to Europe.  That’s because virtually every country has travel restrictions right now.  From a control standpoint, European governments are coming up with lists of countries they will allow travel from in the short term, and the US is conspicuously absent.  They’re not alone.  Canada and the US have mutually agreed on an extension of the border closure between the countries until at least late July. I’ve heard credible reports that this may be extended until Labor Day.  Heck, Canada still has some pretty significant restrictions on moving between Canadian provinces, let alone allowing folks from the US.

By any measure, cases of COVID-19 in the US are not declining.  That makes it tough to figure out when we will be able to travel freely abroad again.

These Restrictions Create Real Heartache

A good friend of mine lives in Europe and planned to have his family come visit this summer.  His family has a newborn and he was looking forward to the extended family gathering in one place to celebrate.  Alas, that plan appears to be on hold.  For myself, I have an aunt in Canada who I’m very close to.  Her memory is failing as she ages, but she has looked forward to seeing us bring the family to visit every year.  The inability to travel right now prevents my family from creating more memories.

There will be future trips to see family, but you don’t get time back.  I recall listening to Bill Marriott speak at a conference once, saying that the industry is based on selling a time and a place, and that when that time passes they can never sell it again.  That’s where we stand today.  No amount of money allows you or I to “buy” this time back.

The Final Two Pennies

At this exact time last year, our family was enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Australia.  I celebrated the fact that, with miles and points, once-in-a-lifetime trips didn’t need to be that.  They could be replicated, expanded, enjoyed again.  I’d never lived through a pandemic.  As I stand here in late June, I still haven’t lived through a pandemic because I’m not exactly sure when this will end.  Almost 2 months after my daughter outlined the 5 places she wants to go when we’re done quarantining, the majority of her list is unachievable.

I originally set out to write about what folks should do in the face of continued travel restrictions.  I’ll be honest, I just can’t bring myself to write that story today.  I’m still wondering when tomorrow actually means I can hug some of the people I love the most.

Travel is about life.  It’s about exploring.  And, many times, for me, it’s about family.  I don’t want to jet off to a far-away land right now.  I want to hug my father, my aunt, my cousin.  But, we’re nowhere near a point where that can be done safely.  I keep hoping…..

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  1. I’d really like to see family as well and really that’s not much stopping me as they are in the US. I could get in a car for a long drive or get on a plane and be there in a couple of hours. As much as I want to, I fear putting them at risk. I’m struggling with this. I want to see them, but at the same time I don’t want to be foolish.

  2. This will not be a popular opinion: we as Americans have been “Karens” demanding that we be able to go get haircuts, our nails done or hang out in bars/restaurants or on the beach as if nothing was wrong. We have mostly failed in taking care of our “brothers” e.g. the Golden Rule. I’m not surprised by the EU’s decision. I’m saddened. How hard is it to wear a mask or social distance? Our government (by not setting standards or mandating behavior) but mostly we brought this ban upon ourselves.

    1. The federal government can’t “mandate” much of anything. Public health in the US is mostly in the hands of state & local governments.

        1. A lot of states and localities HAVE mandated masks and things like that. But enough people aren’t doing it that it’s a problem. And it’s a problem with no easy solutions.

          The cops can’t fine/arrest every single person due to the numbers. Even if they could, do you really expect a cop to do something that would risk going viral in this anti-police atmosphere? There are some people that don’t trust anything the government says (no matter which party is in power) – you’ll never convince them to do it. There are some people that are vehement that masks are infringements on their personal liberties – you’ll never convince them, either.

          The problem with the idea that the government (at any level) should just require masks and that’ll be the end of it is that they assume that people have the same level of trust in government as they do.

          1. There’s certainly a cultural component to the problem in the US. My friend in Melbourne tells me the Australian Federal Police have been locking anyone entering the country in a hotel for a mandatory 14-day quarantine and issuing $1,600 tickets to people not respecting social distancing in public. That’s how they’ve managed to keep their COVID cases to under 8,000 (that’s TOTAL, not daily). Imagine trying to do that in the US!

  3. Don’t count on coming to Canada any time soon.

    The most recent poll I could find showed 81% of Canadians want to keep the US border closed until at least September with 26% wanting it closed until the end of the year and 13% wanting it closed until well into 2021. Those numbers are from late May, before the US cases started surging again. I’m sure support for reopening the border would be under 5% if you polled Canadians today.

    The premier of Ontario, a populist conservative and one of the most “Trump-like” politicians we have, has been fighting hard to keep the border sealed and using the US as his example of how not to do things pretty much on a daily basis. Just last Friday he called the US approach “reckless” and said it’s “come back to bite them”. Most of the other provincial leaders have expressed similar sentiments, although somewhat less bluntly.

    Between the political rhetoric and the recent episodes of Americans lying to get across the border so they can take a vacation in Canada, public sentiment here has turned decidedly anti-American. People have apparently been keying cars with US plates and yelling at their owners to go home even if they’re in the country legally (e.g. dual citizens). When the border does eventually reopen, I would expect Americans will not feel quite as welcome as before.

  4. While lost travel opportunities are not the biggest tragedy of this pandemic, I agree completely with the point about time being lost that we can never get back. I am sad about my missed trips, including one to the Caribbean with my sister, who lives in a different state from me and I don’t see that often. But, I am even sadder for my 92 year old aunt. She was supposed to go on a seniors’ trip to Italy this fall. That isn’t going to happen now, and I wonder if she will ever get the chance to do this. Once this is over, I will focus on seeing the people and places that matter most to me before I run out of time.

  5. The failure has been buying into the media and government hype about the new coronavirus case numbers when deaths have been falling every week for the past six. 95% of people under 50 have no or mild symptoms if infected with coronavirus. 99.87% of people under 50 don’t die of coronavirus if they are infected. Now that testing is readily available, millions of young people are being tested for work. New cases mean nothing if hardly anyone is dying from them. The virus has mutated into a lesser strain and most of the vulnerable people have already died in nursing homes. 3 million people die in the United States each year. Some die from the flu, pneumonia, diabetic complications, or respiratory illnesses. 130K are listed as having died from coronavirus so far. Put that number into perspective and consider how many of those sick people would have died from pneumonia or did die from pneumonia or diabetic complications but also tested positive for coronavirus.

    I like border closures. The U.S. did good with shutting down travel from China but dis not stop travel from Europe early enough. Genomic sequencing indicates 98% of coronavirus cases are linked to Europe. It is stupid for the U.S. to institute more lockdowns and closures because very few people are dying from the virus anymore. However, if European countries don’t want a different (mutated) strain to come into Europe, fine. A month or two of no foreign travel doesn’t make a difference in the grand scheme of things.

    1. “A month or two of no foreign travel doesn’t make a difference in the grand scheme of things.”

      Except it’s been more than a month or two by now. If this goes on for 6 months, that WILL make a difference to some degree.

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