30 September 2020

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Travelling across Europe during the pandemic

by The Good Lobby

 

Eight months have passed since the outbreak of COVID-19. Yet no coordination between the Member States of the European Union has occurred, and that despite an urgent need for an integrated approach to tackling the virus.

 

This can be easily reflected in the experience of the millions of Europeans who venture to travel from one EU country to another like our founder and director, Alberto Alemanno. His account of his most recent travelling experience across the continent confirms that our COVID-19 Campaign requests remain as valid as ever. We need a European Health Union to prevent having to witness the introduction of arbitrary measures put in place by each EU member State again – an approach that would only endanger the health and fundamental rights of all European citizens.

 

Read the full account below.


 

After 6 months of ‘immobility’, I’ve ventured across the border again this week.

I’ve visited 4 countries, walked through  4 airports and 4 train stations, in full compliance (striving to) with applicable legislation.

This is anecdotal evidence and the usual disclaimer applies.

Overall it has been a dystopian experience. lt demystified the fear of travelling again and unveiled several major – bizarrely counterintuitive – differences across the countries I’ve visited and a total lack of coordination among them.

 

FRANCE 

Crossing the French border from Spain meant to visit a spectral Bilbao’s airport and once in Paris to show my passport twice: first, upon landing, with two policemen venturing into the aircraft (!) before letting us into the airport. Second, after a few minutes into CDG, at the airport itself. Unpleasant experience as usual and not even an attempt at verifying health status by the French authorities.

AirFrance asked for our contact details during the flight (on paper).

In Paris’ restaurants:

1. no QR menu but the paper menu

2. no contact-tracing, neither online nor on paper

Freestyle contact tracing!

 

BELGIUM

From Paris, I’ve ventured into Belgium by train – the usual Thalys. Besides wearing a mask, no control before and during boarding.

No control upon arrival in Brussels.

In every single restaurant, you must fill contact a tracing form, but not everywhere.

It’s Belgium, sloppy, spotty but somehow reassuring.

 

ITALY

From Brussels, I flew to Rome in a packed Alitalia plane, after an endless and tedious boarding procedure during which I had to fill up a contact tracing form. Upon arrival, my temperature was checked again before embarking on connecting flight to Florence.

Once in Florence, and after a very bumpy ride (punishment for not taking the train instead), some dedicated personnel was taking the temperature again, quizzing passengers about their provenance. Smooth, and somehow comforting, human touch experience.

At the European University Institute, extra personnel systematically checks on people’s behaviour, they ensure the respect of social distancing at the cafeteria (both when seated and standing), walking along corridors and open spaces. When I took one biscuit from a tray, I was ordered to eat all of them (Ora li mangi tutti dottò!). Vabbè.

The level of social control I’ve experienced is unprecedented. Not only everybody scrupulously seems to follow the rules but is also committed to help others do the same.

People orderly queue (outside of shops, trains’ boarding…). Wow. It’s Switzerland, not Italy. Yet…

The same level of compliance can be witnessed in the streets, hotels and train stations, as well as restaurants where one person per table must share personal contacts  to enable contact tracers to do their job. Meticulous work, on paper. Byzantine as it sounds, yet it seems to work. For real.

I’ve never witnessed an analogous level of individual and collective abidance to any other legal regime in Italy before. It’s so virtuous that reminded me of countries such as Japan.

What such a high level of acceptance with – and abidance to – COVID-restrictions tell us about Italy?

At a time in which anti-mask protests spread across Europe – from Madrid to Marseille and across Germany – the Italian people seems to get this right. Yet nobody really seem to know why and how this is happening.

 

SPAIN

As I return to Spain – wearing the ubiquitous mask – I like to believe that a correlation between the exceptionally virtuous Italian conduct and the actual Italian epidemiological situation exists.

As of today, in Italy, 2% of tests give positive, whereas in Spain it’s 13%.

Of course, no comparability as each country has its own testing policy, methods and assessment.

Europe is alive. No, not kicking yet.