In our previous article from the Travel Documentation Post-COVID-19 series, we talked about what papers will be needed to travel. In this article, we will talk about borders and transportation changes.
The current situation with borders and transportation
In order to minimize the transmission of Covid-19, many countries have banned international travel. Travelers have “imported” the virus into many countries and consequently, governments first started to shut down flights to hotspots of the disease. The main goal of governments is to protect their healthcare system from being overwhelmed and to “flatten the curve” and closing the borders serves this purpose. Beside the epidemiological necessity, many border closures were pushed by nationalistic parties in the various countries as it fits their agenda.
We have seen rapid closures of borders around the world, the reintroduction of Schengen border controls, and the introduction of strict quarantine measures for those still arriving from abroad.
New borders appeared out of nowhere. Many Europeans are used to the freedom of travel they have enjoyed during the past decades, their passports have been ranked on top of the Henley Passport Index as some of the strongest passports in the world. And Schengen has enabled more than 420 million European citizens, living in 26 member states, the complete freedom of movement, and de facto abolishment of any border restrictions.
This freedom to travel was seriously restricted for the first time, since the inception of the Schengen Area in 1995, when the first countries started to reintroduce border controls or closed them completely. Today, travel within the Schengen Zone is nearly impossible, except for residents, cross-border commuters, and logistics personnel.
Apart from travel within the Schengen Zone, the EU also shut its door to any foreign visitors, introducing travel restrictions on all non-essential travel for at least 30 days and creating a “security perimeter for all Schengen states”. French President Emmanuel Macron even suggested that the EU’s external borders might be closed until the end of September, according to Forbes.
The situation slowly started to calm down in certain places, and some countries are considering to start opening their borders soon or have already opened them. Eventually, all borders will open, but gradually and slowly.
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Opening of borders
As we previously pointed out, borders will start opening slowly.
Gradually, borders between neighboring countries will open again. Smaller countries with similar infection rates and close relations are more likely to open fast. Overseas destinations will not open fast and travelers will still be limited to travel from/to infection hotspots. Ethnic and business travel will open before tourism.
But the immigration authorities will have a new focus on health.
Until now, governments and border forces mainly fought illegal immigration and terrorism. Now, a new focus on health issues with the priority not to re-import the coronavirus will be added. This leads to a period of new rules and procedures at the border and the related uncertainties in the beginning.
Air travel will become complicated and more expensive. Airlines will constantly need to monitor the health of their crews and change the current operations with a strict focus on health issues and safety. This involves double cockpit crews, personal protection gear, and less human interaction and service during flights. Less frequent and direct flights with an empty middle seat will be the new (safer) standard. Hub/spoke-airlines such as Emirates or Etihad will be challenged. Airports will need to adapt their infrastructure to the new health requirements, starting with simple temperature measurement, but also medical examination areas and zones for passengers arriving from risk/non-risk countries.
Adapting these new rules will create more costs and consequently, airport-taxes will rise.
If you’re interested in reading more about the traveling and travel documentation post-COVID-19, download our in-depth whitepaper.
Travel as we know it is definitely gone and new rules have to be followed. In our next article, we’re going to talk about what these changes mean for international tourism.