No cure for COVID travel sickness

2 mins read

EU leaders will congregate in Brussels next week in a socially distanced fashion to take stock of the COVID-19 pandemic, China, digital transformation, and relations with Turkey.

Any way you slice it, the European Union hasn’t done a great job on any of these topics while the pandemic has shown that European unity is a rather idealistic notion when people are dying.

Sure, there has been a lot of bold slogans and “getting through this together” mantra but in the thick of it – when national health systems were buckling under the weight of sick COVID patients – nobody was feeling the love.

We are also supposed to feel better that the bloc is pulling together to get their hands on any possible vaccine when and if it arrives to save the day.

For now, there seems to be no joined-up approach about how to tackle travel within the EU during the pandemic or testing at airports.

With winter coming more national lockdowns are likely under a second wave.

And is there a greater likelihood of travellers becoming stranded as airlines and airports are forced to close operations?

Cyprus being dependent on air connectivity, it has called for a more unified approach by the member states to save tourism and the aviation industry from sinking without trace.

Traveller confidence is at a low ebb as they are unsure where the next cluster hotspot will be and whether they will fall foul of quarantine regulations.

Nicosia has pointed out there is no uniformity when it comes to criteria for categorising countries according to their COVID epidemiological risk.

Various EU countries use different codes and categorisation that its difficult to know whether you need a test to go to Italy or Croatia.

There is no easy way of knowing which countries deem Cyprus as safe with no need to isolate or which airports offer tests.

Britain believes there is no good reason to test at airports because it gives a false snapshot of the COVID situation while countries like Cyprus promote it as another line of defence.

There is a muddled approach across the continent towards the travel industry where Cyprus has seen an 80% drop on last year’s tourist arrivals.

Travelling blind

The Transport Minister has told his EU colleagues that travel has become a journey into the unknown with multiple systems in place based on different entry requirements, further complicating flight schedules for the public.

It has been suggested that passengers travelling from one EU country to another must meet common entry requirements regardless of their origin and destination.

This is of little help to the aviation industry where hundreds of jobs are being lost while airlines like British Airways and Ryanair have reduced their capacity.

At the Brussels summit, Cyprus will not be blowing the trumpet for improved passenger experience in times of COVID but bludgeoning a path leading toward sanctions against Turkey.

Tired of Turkey’s bullyboy tactics and gunboat diplomacy, Cyprus has been doing the rounds in the East Med neighbourhood knocking on doors to canvass support for a tougher EU27 stance.

As the government has been able to suppress the virus, it has turned its attention to top-tier diplomacy in getting an unwieldy and disinterested EU to rally for the cause.

EU solidarity may be a myth busted on the hard realities of the pandemic, but Nicosia is calling on the bloc’s founding principle to deter an unruly neighbour from blowing its house down.

Although the government has prepared itself for an adventure of political brinkmanship in waving the sanctions card at Turkey, it needs to focus on the pandemic.

It does not want to compound a health emergency with a political crisis played out during an economic recession.

Cyprus is right to stand up for its sovereign integrity but how does it get from sanction cheerleader to peacemaker?

Certainly, it can blame the other parties for three years of stalemate, but reunification will need to be negotiated at the peace table.

Right now, this seems less likely than a COVID-19 vaccine, but history is littered with examples of despised enemies becoming friends…give or take a century.