Like millions of others around the world, Gulf News Foreign Correspondent Mick O’Reilly is currently under COVID-19 lockdown. This is what life is like in social isolation in Ireland, where there are strict rules about who is allowed out, where, and under limited circumstances.
Saturday June 13, 9am
IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?
UP TO 80% OF COVID-19 POSITIVE BRITS DON’T HAVE SYMPTOMS
TEST DATA SHOWS HOW DIFFICULT REOPENING PROCESS WILL BE
In the United Kingdom, up to 80 per cent of people who test positive for coronavirus in the UK don’t have symptoms.
I think that number, mentioned by British Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Thursday evening, shows just how difficult it is trying to balance reopening economics and trying to defeat this invisible enemy.
According to data released by the UK’S Office For National (ONS) statistics last week, 71 per cent of people who tested positive for coronavirus had not displayed symptoms.
But speaking at the daily government briefing, Hancock suggested the number of asymptomatic cases could be higher.
“The big-picture answer is that yes there are some people who don’t have symptoms but do have the virus,” Hancock said. “And in fact, in the ONS study we find that around 70 to 80 per cent of people who test positive don’t have symptoms. That is quite a significant finding and one of the important things about this disease, in the same way that asymptomatic transmission is one of the things that makes controlling this disease really hard and is novel for any coronavirus, and is one of the things that makes it so difficult.:
I couldn’t agree more.
Around 20,000 British households were invited to take part in the ONS study, and so far nearly half of households have provided at least one swab for testing.
DIVIDED OPINION ON ASYMPTOMATIC SUFFERERS
There has been much debate about how much asymptomatic COVID-19 sufferers contribute to the spread of the virus.
A World Health Organisation (WHO) scientist said on Monday it was “very rare” for people with no symptoms to pass the disease on, but later stressed this had been based on a relatively small set of studies.
Dr Maria Van Kerkhove said this evidence had come from countries that carried out “detailed contact tracing”.
WHO officials said in a briefing on Tuesday there’s “much that is unknown” when it comes to asymptomatic transmission.
Hancock said on Thursday the ONS findings highlighted the importance of people complying with self-isolation under the test and trace scheme, even if they aren’t showing symptoms.
“They are isolating for the period they would be infectious, which breaks the chain,” he said. “That's why the 14-day isolation is so important to break the spread of the virus.” He also told the public it was their “civic duty” to comply with the scheme.
“Test and trace is our radar. You have your part to play,” he said.
RYANAIR, BA AND EASYJET LAUNCH LEGAL ACTION OVER UK QUARANTINE
I have written it here several times before – I think the UK decision last week to bring in mandatory quarantine measures for all travellers arriving to the UK from anywhere except Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, is too little and way too late.
And the airlines based in the UK agree too. Ryanair, British Airways and EasyJet said on Friday they have begun legal action against the British government's quarantine policy in a bid to overturn what they see as overly strict rules.
All three airlines had hoped to resume regular flights after air travel came to a total standstill during the coronavirus pandemic, leading to almost 20,000 job losses between them.
But Britain's 14-day quarantine, introduced on June 8 for arrivals from abroad, is deterring bookings at a time when other European countries are beginning to open their borders.
The airlines said in a statement issued by BA’s parent company IAG they had lodged their complaint with the High Court, asking for a judicial review as soon as possible.
If judges agree, lawyers have said the UK government would have to show the scientific evidence that underpinned the rule. There was no immediate response from the British government, which has previously defended quarantine as necessary to prevent a second wave of the coronavirus.
Britain’s chief scientist said earlier in June that politicians decided the policy, adding quarantines worked best for restricting travel from countries with high infection rates.
AIRLINES SAY THERE’S NO SCIENCE BEHIND THE QUARANTINE
The airlines said there was no scientific evidence for the policy and there had been no consultation with the industry on the new rules.
Their legal action escalates tensions with the British government, and the relationship is in contrast to France and Germany where governments have bailed out their carriers.
The airlines said they wanted the government to re-adopt its previous quarantine policy introduced on March 10 which applied only to passengers arriving from countries deemed as high risk.
They also dismissed “air bridges” – bilateral deals between countries with low infection rates – that the government has presented as a potential alternative to the quarantine, saying they had not yet seen any evidence of how these would work.
Slow to introduce lockdown measures and with one of the highest death tolls in the world, Britain argues a quarantine is needed to prevent a second surge of COVID-19.
The UK quarantine imposes fines of up to £1,000 (Dh4,650) for any breaches.
AIR TRAVELLERS ARE FREE TO USE PUBLIC TRANSPORT FROM AIRPORTS
Ryanair, British Airways and EasyJet believe the measure is ineffective as passengers can still board trains and busses once they leave an airport.
Willie Walsh, the head of BA and Aer Lingus-owner IAG, said the issue could be resolved quickly if they could prove it was an irrational piece of legislation.
EasyJet boss Johan Lundgren also said the three companies had a strong case. “This is something that has been rushed through. It's not in proportion,” Lundgren said earlier this week.
The quarantine will be reviewed every three weeks, the government has said. Portugal’s foreign minister Augusto Santos Silva has said “air bridges” that allow tourists to travel between two countries without needing to quarantine are also being discussed.
Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary said Britons were booking outbound flights for holidays despite the quarantine, but Europeans were not coming to Britain.
The airlines say the quarantine measures are more stringent than those imposed on people suspected of being or confirmed to be infected by the coronavirus who are asked to isolate and do not face criminal sanctions.
UK AIR PASSENGERS URGED NOT TO TAKE HAND LUGGAGE ON PLANES
British airline passengers should avoid bringing hand luggage on to a plane in order to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission, according to new government advice from London.
However, the recommendation was criticised by Europe’s biggest airline, Ryanair, which said it was safer for passengers to carry rather than check in bags. The Department for Transport guidance “strongly” encourages passengers to check in bags and minimise hand luggage because it will “speed up boarding and disembarking and minimise the risk of transmission”.
The UK’s transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said the guidelines were “a positive next step” for the embattled aviation sector to start recovery, after most flights were grounded due to coronavirus and travel restrictions from late March.
Shapps added: “The government’s advice currently remains to avoid all non-essential travel, but today we are taking the necessary steps to ensure a framework is in place for the aviation industry to bounce back when it is safe for restrictions on travel to be lifted.”
The guidelines for air travel come as more flights are due to resume next week, when easyJet will restart domestic services from Gatwick.
UK aviation industry, also recommends checking in online and remaining seated as much as possible during the flight.
WASHING HANDS, MASKS AND SOCIAL DISTANCING
General health advice will continue to apply, such as attempting to maintain social distancing where possible in the airport, and washing hands regularly after touching any surfaces, including check-in kiosks and trolleys.
Passengers are urged to bring their own face covering for use throughout their journey including at the airport, with spare coverings for longer journeys and plastic bags to store used masks.
Specific rules on temperature checks or self-certification, which some airlines and airports have asked for, have not been issued. But in line with general guidance passengers have been told not to travel if they have been in close contact with anyone with symptoms in the past 14 days.
Tim Hawkins, chief strategy officer at MAG, the owner of Stansted and Manchester airports, said they had collaborated with the government to draw up the guidelines, based on advice from independent medical and scientific experts who looked at necessary safety measures at each stage of travel.
But Ryanair said that it recommended hand luggage, which would only be touched by the passenger, rather than checked-in bags which would have contact with multiple baggage handlers and check-in staff.
URGED TO DROP UK QUARANTINE RULES
Apart from Ryanair, most airlines and airports welcomed the guidelines, which they said would help pave the way for travel to resume – but also urged the government to remove the impediment of its quarantine rules.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said the guidelines were welcome: “They demonstrate how airlines can apply targeted and multi-layered measures to ensure air travel is safe for customers and crew.”
The International Air Transport Association said the measures were sensible but “rendered useless if the government continues with the 14-day quarantine rule”.
A Ryanair spokesperson said the government should “stop issuing rubbish advice to passengers about baggage and instead focus their efforts on scrapping the UK’s useless visitor quarantine, which the UK Home Office now admit cannot be implemented, supervised or policed effectively”.
MEME OF THE DAY
This was shared with me on Facebook by my second cousin Helen McHale. She points out she’s at Stage 6 while living in the Birmingham area in the UK.
THIS IS HOW EUROPE STANDS AS IT OPENS UP FROM COVID-19
I’m doing this blog now for nearly 11 weeks now, and twice before I’ve put together a list of how things stand. It seems as if there will be notable changes in the list come Monday, June 15.
It’s by no means comprehensive but does show just home complex the situation is.
If there is one lesson from all of this, it might be that the European Union, along with the European Economic Area countries of Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Switzerland might look at having a joint approach and acting in concert together if or when another pandemic comes around. As the for the UK… who knows?
Brussels is calling on EU countries to open borders to travellers from outside the bloc from July 1.
Now the European Commission is urging members of the Schengen visa-free travel area to coordinate on how external borders are opened.
“International travel is key to tourism and business, and for family and friends reconnecting,” EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said.
The lifting of the travel ban is dependent on EU countries opening up their internal borders around June 15.
EU ASKS MEMBER STATES TO AGREE LIST OF ACCEPTABLE NON-EU COUNTRIES
“You should open up as soon as possible,” said Johansson when asked about internal borders, explaining that the European Centre for Disease Control had said internal borders was “not an effective way of dealing with the pandemic now”.
But not all countries plan to reopen borders to EU travellers next week, with Spain and Portugal set to reopen later in June and with Denmark only planning to open borders with Germany, Iceland and Norway.
The European Commission is now asking member states to agree on a list of non-EU countries where travellers could come from starting from July.
Conditions for lifting restrictions to non-EU countries will include looking at the infection rates and the country's capability to deal with the virus. Restrictions should remain in place for countries with a worse outbreak.
“It will apply to all countries in a similar or better outbreak situation to the EU,” Johansson said, clarifying that not all external borders should open from July 1.
Exceptions to restrictions will apply to students, as well as highly-skilled non-EU workers.
The EU has ALSO recommended that travel restrictions are lifted for Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.
Naturally, if you’re planning to travel, check with the relevant governments on their official websites.
Albania: Land borders are open to international tourists, but commercial flights suspended. Domestic travel is also now permitted. Hotels, shops, restaurants, beaches, indoor activity centres for children, sports centres, swimming pools, internet cafes and cultural centres are permitted to open. Public transport may begin operating again gradually over the next month.
Austria: Borders are open to tourists from Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Hungary. Talks with other countries are ongoing, and are likely to see borders with countries showing a comparable decline in the virus opening first. A health certificate is required on entry, stating that the traveller does not have coronavirus; those without a certificate must self-isolate for 14 days. Testing is available at Vienna airport for €190 (Dh780). Passenger train services between Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia, Switzerland and the Czech Republic are suspended. Vienna, Innsbruck and Salzburg airports are operational but with limited services. Restaurants, bars and hotels are permitted to reopen. Masks are mandatory on public transport and in shops.
Belgium: Belgium is due to open to tourists from the UK, EU and Schengen countries on June 15. Currently, all arrivals must self-isolate for 14 days. Some indirect flights with the UK are operating for essential travel. Eurostar has a significantly reduced service; public transport is running (masks mandatory). Proof of residence and onward travel required for transit. Shops, museums, bars, restaurants and some tourist attractions are open, and small open-air events are permitted – major events are prohibited until after August, alongside the opening of night clubs. Non-contact sports and religious gatherings under 100 people permitted. Cultural and sports events will be allowed a seated audience of up to 200 people from July 1.
Bulgaria: Borders are open to tourists from the UK, EU and Schengen countries. Currently, all arrivals must self-isolate for 14 days. A reduced number of direct flights are operating with the UK, and transit is permitted. Some hotels and swimming pools are open and individual outdoor sports permitted. Some markets and the outside areas of bars and restaurants are open. Visiting mountains and national parks is also allowed. Museums, galleries and cinemas are open at limited capacity. Masks mandatory on public transport and other enclosed public spaces.
Croatia: Borders are open to tourists from the EU and EEA countries, including the UK. All arrivals should fill out an online form in advance and proof of a tourist accommodation booking is required on entry (apart from for tourists from Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia, Germany and Slovakia). No date announced for borders reopening to non-essential travel by UK nationals. Parks, beaches, shops, museums, hotels and outdoor restaurants and bars are open, and some public transport is operating. Some international and domestic flights operating and transit permitted. International flights will increase throughout June.
Cyprus: Borders are open to tourists from countries regarded as having dealt well with the pandemic. Thirteen countries in category A face no restrictions; six in category B must provide a health certificate and negative test results on entry or pay for a test for €60. The government has said it will cover the cost of lodging, food, drink and medication for any traveller who tests positive while in Cyprus, but they will need to pay for an airport transfer and repatriation flight. The second phase of easing, from June 10, included reopening outside seating areas at cafes and restaurants and unrestricted use of beaches. Some hotels and museums are open. Parks, outdoor play areas, squares and marinas are to open from June 21 – for no more than 10 people at a time – as well as archaeological and historical sites.
Czech Republic: Borders are due to open to tourists from the UK, EU and Schengen countries from June 15 however countries will be assessed weekly and categorised according to risk – and some will be subject to testing on arrival. The UK is considered a high risk country. Countries considered medium or high risk must present a negative test result, take a test with a negative result within 72 hours of arrival, or self-isolate for 14 days. Prague airport is open. Transit is permitted with proof of residence and onward travel. Domestic travel permitted. Shops, outdoor restaurants, pubs, museums and other cultural institutions are open, and events with up to 500 people are permitted. Hotels, outdoor campsites and other accommodation have also reopened. Rules on wearing masks in public have also been relaxed, but they are still mandatory on public transport.
Denmark: Borders due to open to tourists from Norway, Finland, Germany and Iceland from June 15 – they be required to book accommodation in advance, stay at least six nights in the country, and may visit Copenhagen for the day but cannot stay in the capital overnight. Travel between other Nordic countries is being reviewed, with a further announcement expected by June 15. Copenhagen and Billund airports are open, with indirect flights to the UK. Transit is only currently permitted for those with a “worthy purpose”, such as people from neighbouring countries returning home. Shops, parks and some hotels are open, and public transport is operating. Restaurants, bars, sports facilities, cinemas and theatres are also permitted to open.
Estonia: Borders are open to tourists from the UK, EU and Schengen countries. Currently, arrivals from the UK, Sweden, Belgium, Ireland, Portugal, Malta and Spain must self-isolate for 14 days. The list will be revised every Friday, and will change depending on which countries have 15 or less people per 100,000 inhabitants infected with coronavirus in the passenger’s country of origin in the past 14 days. Domestic travel is permitted including to the islands. Hotels, museums, swimming pools and other leisure facilities are allowed to open. Restaurants and bars can be open until 10pm.
Finland: Borders are due to open to tourists from Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, from June 15. Tourists from other EU countries may be permitted after July 14.The Finnish government is expected to review restrictions again in by the end of June. Some international flights are operating (arriving at Helsinki, Turku and Mariehamn airports), and transit is permitted. Shops and cultural institutions are allowed to open, and restaurants and bars until 11pm. Hotels are beginning to reopen. Gatherings of up to 50 people permitted, and events of over 500 may be permitted in July.
France: Borders due to reopen to tourists from EU and Schengen countries on June 15. Currently, all arrivals coming from countries that have imposed quarantine measures, will be required to self-isolate for 14 days, including all arrivals from the UK from June 8 and Spain by air. Other arrivals must provide a health certificate stating that they do not have coronavirus until at least July – with an alternative of 14 days’ self-isolation. Public transport is starting to run more frequently, masks are mandatory. Shops, restaurants, bars, museums, beaches and parks are permitted to reopen. P&O and DFDS are operating reduced ferry services on cross-Channel routes. Some flights are operating. Eurostar is running a limited service between Paris and London and passengers are required to wear masks. For vehicle crossings, Eurotunnel Le Shuttle is operating a limited service.
Germany: Borders are open to tourists from Austria and Luxembourg, and are due to reopen to tourists from the UK, the remaining Schengen and EU countries from June 15, who will also be exempt from having to self-isolate for 14 days. Tourists from everywhere else are unlikely to be permitted until at least August. Flight schedules are due to increase over the next month. Domestic train schedules have resumed, as have some cross border routes. Shops, restaurants and some hotels now open. Large events, such as festivals may return after August. The 16 states have taken different paths out of lockdown, with types and timetable of amenities open varying.
Greece: Prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis declared June 15 as the official start of the tourist season in Greece. Athens and Thessaloniki airports will open then; direct flights to other mainland and island destinations restart on July 1. A list has been released of destinations deemed high-risk, which currently includes thirteen UK airports. Passengers arriving from these countries face testing on arrival – a negative result will mean self-isolation for seven days; a positive will result in mandatory government quarantine for 14 days. Tourists from a list of countries deemed safe face random testing on arrival including Albania, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Malta, Montenegro, New Zealand, Norway, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea and Switzerland. Some domestic flights and ferries are operating at 50 per cent capacity, and travel to all the Aegean and Ionian islands is permitted. Masks are mandatory in shops and on public transport. Some shops, bars and restaurants are open, and throughout June, malls, cinemas, amusement parks, playgrounds and sports facilities will open gradually. Year-round hotels are permitted to open, seasonal hotels from June 15. Public transport and taxis operating –up to two passengers per taxi. Large gatherings, including festivals and sporting events, are unlikely to return this summer.
Hungary: Borders are open to tourists from Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia. Borders are due to open to tourists from Croatia from June 12. Limited flights are operating. In Budapest, shops, parks and the outside areas of bars and restaurants are open, and elsewhere hotels are also permitted to reopen. Masks are mandatory in shops and when using public transport and taxis across the entire country.
Iceland: Borders are open to tourists from Schengen and EU countries, and the UK. Currently all arrivals must self-isolate for 14 days. From 15 June, all arrivals must choose between being tested for coronavirus or self-isolation for 14 days (children born 2005 or later are exempt). The test will be free charge for an initial two-week period, then ISK15,000. Arrivals are also likely to be asked to download the country’s tracing app. The government expects to start easing restrictions on international arrivals no later than June 15 for other nations. Some flights are operating, including Icelandair, as are some buses and taxis. Most hotels, attractions, restaurants, nightclubs, gym and shops open; and public gatherings of up to 50 people permitted with social distancing.
Ireland: Some flights and ferry services continue to operate between Ireland and the UK. All arrivals are subject to 14 days’ self-isolation and must provide details of accommodation while in Ireland. UK nationals will be exempt from self-isolation procedure on return home to the UK. Public transport is limited; restaurants and some pubs will reopen on June 29; hotels, museums and galleries to reopen July 20.
Italy: Borders are open to international tourists, but travellers from outside the EU, Schengen area and UK must self-isolate for 14 days. Bars, restaurants, non-essential shops, parks and museums are open. Some hotels have reopened. Many airports remain closed or are operating a reduced schedule; transit permitted. Trains are operating reduced services. Masks mandatory in enclosed public spaces. Sicily has announced that it will subsidise travel for international and domestic tourists once it is safe to return.
Latvia: Borders are open to tourists from Switzerland, the EU and EEA countries, including the UK. However, all passengers will have to self-isolate unless their country of origin has had 15 or less people per 100,000 inhabitants infected with coronavirus in the past 14 days. A list of high-risk exempt countries is published every Friday. Commercial passenger flights are suspended.
Lithuania: Borders are open to tourists from Switzerland, the EU and EEA countries, including the UK. However, all passengers will have to self-isolate unless their country of origin has had 25 or less people per 100,000 inhabitants infected with coronavirus in the past 14 days. A list of high-risk countries will be updated every Monday.. These measures will be re-assessed by June 15. Limited commercial passenger flights are operating. Masks are mandatory in shops, at events and on public transport. Gatherings of more than five people, or longer than for 15 minutes, are not permitted, but private and organised public events of up to 30 people are allowed. Hotels, restaurants, swimming pools, night clubs and arcades can reopen until 10pm.
Luxembourg: Borders open to tourists from Germany. No date announced for borders reopening to non-essential travel by UK nationals, or commercial passenger flights to start operating with the UK. Restaurants, shops and hotels are permitted to reopen and outdoor non-contact sports are also be permitted. Masks are mandatory in supermarkets and on public transport.
Malta: Borders are due to open to tourists from Austria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Sardinia, Sicily, Slovakia, Switzerland from July 1, when airports also open. No date announced for borders reopening to non-essential travel by UK nationals or other tourists. Currently, all arrivals must self-isolate for 14 days. Masks mandatory in shops and on public transport. Some restaurants and non-essential shops are open, along with some hotels.
Netherlands: Borders are open to tourists from EU and Schengen countries and the UK; with the possibility of non-essential travel permitted by tourists from other countries after June 15. Currently travellers from high-risk countries must self-isolate for 14 days, including the UK, although measures are due to be relaxed from June 15. Some flights are operating with the UK. Eurostar is due to operate with the UK from June 28. Shops and some hotels are open. Masks are mandatory on public transport. Outdoor restaurants and bars are open, as are theatres, music venues, museums and cinemas with social distancing. Campsites and holiday parks are open, and their communal facilities are due to open on July 1. Events, concerts and festivals with more than 100 people may be allowed after September 1.
Norway: Borders due to open to tourists from Denmark and Finland from June 15. Travel between other Nordic countries is being reviewed, with a further announcement expected by June 15. No date announced for borders reopening to non-essential travel other tourists, although another announcement is expected by July 20 regarding entry for the remaining European countries. Some flights operating with the UK and transit permitted. Some hotels, shops and restaurants open. Organised events with up to 50 people permitted, so some parks, music venues, galleries and other cultural institutions open, others likely to reopen from June 15.
Poland: Borders will open to tourists from the EU from June 13, without requiring them to self-isolate. Currently, all other non-essential arrivals must self-isolate for 14 days. Restrictions have been lifting gradually since May 4, and travel to cities, national parks and beaches is now permitted. Some domestic flights are operating and international flights for essential travel, more commercial passenger flights are expected to resume from July 16. Hotels are permitted to reopen, and most shops, restaurants, bars, museums and galleries are also open. City bike schemes and some public transport operating. Masks mandatory in public.
Portugal: On May 22, minister of foreign affairs Augusto Santos Silva told the Observador newspaper: Tourists are welcome in Portugal” this summer, and that arrivals by air would be subject to health checks but not a compulsory quarantine – although a date for borders to open to all tourists has not been announced by the national government. Some regional tourist boards have made announcements, including Madeira and Porto Santo, which are aiming to reopen to international tourists from July 1m and travellers must present negative test results from within 72 hours prior to departure or be tested on arrival, paid for by the local government. The Algarve tourist board has also said that it is “ready to restart its tourist activity” – many hotels are already open and its beaches are now open. Limited flights are operating between London and Lisbon, other international flights are likely to begin operating again after June 15, including outside the EU. The lifting of measures varies depending on region. Public transport across the country is running at a reduced capacity, though there are rail and bus links to Lisbon city centre from most parts of the country, and taxis are still operating. Beaches and campsites are open and restaurants and bars in many regions are permitted to reopen at limited capacity.
Romania: Borders are open to tourists from the EU, Switzerland, and EEA countries, including the UK. All arrivals must self-isolate for 14 days. Domestic travel permitted. Hotels, open-air museums and attractions, and the outside of restaurants and bars are permitted to open. Masks mandatory in enclosed public spaces and on public transport. Gatherings of more than three people from different families are not allowed. Parks and beaches are open, and outdoor events, up to 500 attendees are allowed.
Slovakia: Borders open to tourists from Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Some flights operating, and transit permitted with proof of onward travel. All arrivals must self-isolate for 14 days and register for entry 72 hours in advance. Some shops, outdoor markets, outdoor sports venues for non-contact sports, outdoor tourist attractions, outdoor areas of bars and restaurants, museums, galleries and short and long-term accommodation without catering are open. Taxis and some public transport operating. Masks in public are mandatory.
Slovenia: Borders are open to tourists from EU and Schengen countries and the UK. All arrivals must self-isolate for 14-days and provide proof of accommodation, apart from arrivals from Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Norway, Slovakia and Switzerland, who are exempt. Flights are limited and train connections with Austria are suspended. Shops, galleries, smaller hotels are open, and the outside areas of bars and restaurants. Nightclubs remain closed. Some public transport and taxis operating, and masks mandatory. Gatherings of up to 200 people are permitted in public spaces.
Spain: Borders are due to gradually open to international tourists from July 1, and domestic travel will be permitted from June 22. Entry could be dependent on whether the arrivals are coming from a country with low levels of the virus. A de-escalation process is gradually reopening the country in stages throughout June, and some measures vary depending on region and throughout the islands. Very limited flights running and are for essential travel only. Currently, arrivals must self-isolate for 14 days, although this is likely to be relaxed from July. Many hotels opened on May 11, minus communal spaces and catering but not all are expected to do so until borders open to domestic and international tourism. In less-affected regions, outdoor spaces at restaurants and bars can open; and museums and beaches are open, but some are limiting capacity. The Canary Islands are now permitting beach access, with some hotels, shops and cultural attractions open In partnership with the World Tourism Organisation, the Canaries are also set to be the first destination in the world to trial digital health certificates when they open to international tourists in July. Inter-island travel is restricted to essential travel only, including in the Balearics.
Sweden: Borders are due to open to tourists from EU countries, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland but are closed to non-EU countries until June 15 at the earliest) However, some European countries, including neighbouring Norway and Denmark are not permitting entry to people travelling from Sweden. Limited flights operating between London and Stockholm. As Sweden never went into full lockdown, hotels, shops, bars, restaurants and some museums are open. Large gatherings of more than 50 are still prohibited.
Switzerland: Borders open to tourists from Germany, France and Austria from June 15, followed by the remaining Schengen zone countries from July. 6. Travel from countries beyond this could resume from mid-July. Hotels, shops, markets and restaurants are open. Outdoor sports with up to five people permitted. Theatres, museums, cinemas, swimming pools, ski resorts, spas, mountain services and other leisure activities including summer camps have resumed business. Large events with a thousand-plus people may resume from August 31, although a decision is expected to be made on this at the end of June.
Turkey: The government is aiming to have international tourism return by mid-June. Some international flights and domestic flights are now operating. Hotels and restaurants are permitted to open. Masks are mandatory in shops and on public transport. The country lifted its curfews on over-65s and under-18s going out.
United Kingdom: The UK Foreign Office is currently advising against all but essential international travel for an indefinite period. However, countries across Europe have begun to ease lockdown measures and border restrictions, and some have started to welcome domestic and international tourists.
At the UK border, all arrivals must self-isolate for 14 days from June 8, or face a £1,000 fine. Arrivals must also provide contact and accommodation information, and the authorities have said they will carry out spot checks. Failure to supply an address may result in a £100 fine. They will also be strongly advised to download and use the NHS contract-tracing app. Currently, only passengers arriving from Ireland are exempt.
HOW I’M PRETENDING TO GROW £10,000 IN PLAY MONEY
Another bad day. Another day of red ink. Another day of losses, with my portfolio finishing on the week just below the £3,0000 profit mark.
A reminder that this is all pretend, I started out in lockdown with £10,000 – about Dh45,000 to invest on the London Stock Exchange, I don’t pay for trades and I can only buy or sell when the market is closed. There’s no minimum on the amount of stocks I can buy, just as long as I can afford them.
This is how things stand:
Net worth £12,985.88
Ocado, 100 shares: £1958.00
Diageo, 100 shares: £2780.00
PowerHouse, 1200 shares: £4080.00
Ryanair, 350 shares: £3934.00
Cash in hand: £233.88
£ loss on last trading day: £60.
% gain overall: 29.8 per cent
£ Gain overall: £2985.88
Come Sunday, I will rebalance everything and cash in Ocado and Diageo and use those funds with my cash in hand to look at some other options for next week. But a bad week, one that handed me a loss of £1,100 or so overall.
CONFESSIONS FROM LOCKDOWN
I came across and interesting element on NBC where those under lockdown posted their one line confessions from lockdown. What they thought, what they did, their fears and other worries or concerns. The comments show that we’re pretty much the same the world over.. You can always share yours to Readers@gulfnews.com and mark it for the Going Viral blog.
Here are today’s 25 confessions:
1: Zoom karaoke...I could smoke, drink, fold laundry and the bottle of vodka was on the table plus I did not have to pay for sitter.
2: Eight weeks still no unemployment money. Ridiculous!
3: The aggressive drivers are out again. They must be the non-essentials.
4: Sometimes I nap during work hours to get respite from this stress.
5: Neighbour's toddler runs up and hugs my knees. I don't want him to become fearful and unloving, so I smile but wash up when inside.
6: I love the fact that I am away from people, and do not have to deal with them on a daily basis. Alone and loving it!
7: Miss working so much that I may never retire once I can go back. Never thought I'd say that.
8: I'm a healthcare worker at a prison. We may be receiving a medical quarantine unit due to the recent outbreaks. Staff are scared.
9: Teaching online is painful. Students don't open content, then whine that they don't know what to do. and email or call at all hours.
10: I do not wear pants every day, and do not work a full eight hours, even though I say I do. There isn't much work to do from home.
11: Shelter-in-place with my husband is driving me nuts. I realize how much we have grown apart. Not sure how this is going to end up.
12: I'm a single mom, a stay at home mom, and a homeschool mom. Work is not important! I'm doing the minimum so I can stay sane.
13: My kids are pushing me to my limits. I'm about to have a breakdown.
14: I miss my family. I miss going outside and playing with the grandkids. Life just scary and sad. Hope the world gets better.
15: I really found my true self it makes me realise how much I dislike people.
16: We had the best few months together, then coronavirus happened. I got ghosted when I thought I was starting to fall in love.
17: My honeymoon was cancelled but I still took the week off. They called me today on my vacation to get tested for COVID-19.
18: My coworkers aren't taking this pandemic seriously; I find it to be troublesome and scary.
19: My college has already started being unfair with grading assignments and due dates, and I'm working full--time still.
20: Me and my wife work out of the home every day. I am scared to death of what could happen to us.
21: It’s me and my boyfriend’s six-month anniversary of being together and we can’t do anything because everything is closed.
22: My company fired 90 per cent of staff, but is now making us work like dogs – our hours got cut – how do they expect all the work to be done?
23: I wear my hair in two braids every day and rotate the same two or three outfits. Loving the simplicity of it all. No fashion concerns.
24: Living in Arkansas has been the worst thing ever.
25: I have been working full-time through the crisis, and everyone around me is coughing 24/7, and not required to wear masks/gloves.
ALARMING RISE IN VIRUS CASES AS US STATES ROLL BACK LOCKDOWNS
Seeing as the confessions above are from the US, I thought it would be interesting to see just how things are unfolding there.
Individual states are rolling back lockdowns, but the coronavirus isn't done with the US. Cases are rising in nearly half the states, according to AP’s analysis, a worrying trend that could intensify as people return to work and venture out during the summer.
In Arizona, hospitals have been told to prepare for the worst. Texas has more hospitalised COVID-19 patients than at any time before. And the governor of North Carolina said recent jumps caused him to rethink plans to reopen schools or businesses.
There is no single reason for the surges. In some cases, more testing has revealed more cases. In others, local outbreaks are big enough to push statewide tallies higher. But experts think at least some are due to lifting stay-at-home orders, school and business closures, and other restrictions put in place during the spring to stem the virus's spread.
The virus is also gradually fanning out.
“It is a disaster that spreads,” said Dr Jay Butler, who oversees coronavirus response work at the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. “It’s not like there’s an entire continental seismic shift and everyone feels the shaking all at once.”
That is also happening globally. Places that suffered early on such as China, Italy and Spain have calmed down but Brazil, India and other countries that were spared initially are seeing large increases. The world is seeing more than 100,000 newly-confirmed cases every day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
INTERNATIONAL TRAVELLERS CARRIED VIRUS TO US
The virus first landed on the US coasts, carried by international travelers infected abroad. For months, the epicentre was in northeastern states. More recently, the biggest increases have been in the South and the West.
The AP analysed data compiled by The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer organisation that collects coronavirus testing data in the US. The analysis found that in 21 states this week, the rolling seven-day average of new cases per capita was higher than the average seven days earlier.
Some worry the situation may get worse as social distancing restrictions lift and more people gather. One concern is that large recent racial justice protests across the country might spark at least some spread of the virus.
Another: President Donald Trump this week said he’s planning to hold rallies that may draw thousands of people. He will hold them in four states — Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma, and Texas.
All of them are among the states with rising cases identified in the AP analysis.
Here's what's driving increases in some of the states with notable upticks:
Republican Gov. Doug Ducey ended Arizona’s stay-at-home order on May 15 and eased restrictions on businesses. Arizona residents who were cooped up for six weeks flooded Phoenix-area bar districts, ignoring social distancing guidelines.
The state began seeing a surge of new cases and hospitalisations about 10 days later.
“It seems pretty clear to me that what we’re seeing is directly related to the end of the stay-at-home order,” said Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association.
It wasn’t just that the order ended: There were no requirements to wear face masks, no major increases in contact tracing to spot and stop evolving outbreaks, and no scale-up of infection control at nursing homes, he said.
“Those are missed opportunities that, if implemented today, could still make a big difference,” said Humble, a former director of the state Department of Health Services.
Testing has been increasing in Arizona, which raises the chance of finding new cases. But the proportion of tests coming back positive has also been on the rise.
The AP analysis found Arizona had a rolling average of fewer than 400 new cases a day at the time the shutdown was lifted, but it shot up two weeks later and surpassed 1,000 new cases a day by early this week. Hospitalizations have also risen dramatically, hitting the 1,200 mark last week.
The state also passed another grim milestone last week, recording it’s 1,000th death.
Meanwhile Arizona hospitals reported they were at 83 per cent of capacity Tuesday, which could force the cancellation of elective surgeries. An executive order Ducey issued in April said hospitals wanting to resume elective surgeries had to have at least 20 per cent of their beds available.
In North Carolina, more testing plus more people out and about during reopening seem to be the main drivers of recent case upticks, said Kimberly Powers, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina.
On Saturday, the state recorded its highest single-day increase, with 1,370. While testing has grown in the last two weeks, so has the rate of tests coming back positive.
“These trends moving in the wrong direction is a signal we need to take very seriously,” said North Carolina's top health official, Mandy Cohen, who along with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has urged the public to take precautions to protect themselves.
But some state residents are not on board.
“I think they should start opening stuff a little bit more," said Jason Denton, an electrician from Greenville who said one of his main concerns was getting to the gym.
“That’s like my therapy," he said.
Few states are rebooting faster than Texas, where hospitalisations surged past 2,100 on Wednesday for the first time during the pandemic. That's a 42 per cent increase in patients since Memorial Day weekend, when beachgoers swarmed Texas’ coastline and a water park near Houston opened to big crowds in defiance of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s orders.
Texas’ percentage of tests coming back positive has also jumped to levels that are among the nation's highest. State officials point to hot spots at meatpacking plants and prisons in rural counties, where thousands of new cases have cropped up, but have not offered explanations for a rise in numbers elsewhere.
Abbott, who has recently begun wearing a mask in public, has shown no intention of pumping the brake on reopening a state where protesters in May pressured him to speed up the timeline on getting hair salons back in business.
On Friday, Texas lifted even more restrictions and let restaurant dining rooms reopen at nearly full capacity.
ALABAMA AND ARKANSAS
In Alabama, outbreaks in nursing homes and poultry plants helped drive state numbers upward, though there was a drop more recently. But that may change — there is evidence of community transmission in the capital, Montgomery, which has become an emerging hot spot, said State Health Officer Scott Harris.
“I think reopening the economy gave a lot of people the wrong impression ... that, ‘Hey everything is fine. Let’s go back to normal’,” Harris said. “Clearly, it is not that way. Really, now more than ever we need people to stay six feet apart, wear face coverings and wash their hands.”
Montgomery hospital intensive care units are as busy as during flu season.
“I can assure you that Montgomery’s cases are not going down, and if our community does not take this seriously, the virus will continue to spread, and at some point, our medical capacity will reach its limit,” Dr. David Thrasher, director of respiratory therapy at Jackson Hospital, said in a statement.
Arkansas has also seen increases — in cases, hospitalisations and the percentage of tests that come back positive. But the state's situation is a complicated story of different outbreaks at different times, said Dr. Nate Smith, director of the Arkansas Department of Health.
After a peak in April, levels were low until spikes began about three weeks ago — mainly in the cities of Rogers and Springdale in the northwest and in De Queen further south. The cases have been concentrated among Hispanics and those who work in chicken production facilities, which never were closed.
Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday said the state will move into a new phase of reopening, starting Monday.
Experts are wondering what will happen in the next week or so, in the wake of nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police.
The protests were outdoors, which reduces the likelihood of virus spread, and many participants have worn masks and taken other precautions. But it's a lot of people close together, chanting, singing and yelling.
“Hopefully we won't see a big spike. But those data aren’t in yet,” Humble said.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
I’m not an expert, but I might be able to help you make a bit of sense of this. And we can all get through it together. Isn’t this what this is all about.
Send your questions for me to Readers@gulfnews.com.
That’s it for now. Let’s check in with each other tomorrow. I have used files from Reuters, AP, DW, Sky News, Twitter and other European and North American media outlets in today’s blog. And remember to stay safe.
Mick O’Reilly is the Gulf News Foreign Correspondent based in Europe