Coronavirus: Latest travel advice for Spain, France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia

A number of countries have imposed new rules around events in response to coronavirus

Qin Xie,Helen Coffey
Monday 16 March 2020 11:35 GMT
Spokesperson for Travel Association ABTA advises on whether to travel

After the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared coronavirus a pandemic, more and more countries around the world are shutting borders and entering a state of lockdown, with international travel severely curtailed or banned altogether.

Now the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against “all but essential travel” to more than 30 countries, leaving hundreds of thousands of travellers forced to cancel trips. Some already abroad are struggling to find a way back to the UK as airlines increasingly ground flights around the globe.

Here’s the latest advice from the Foreign Office and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on travelling to Spain, France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia.

FCO advice on travelling to Spain

The FCO is now advising against all but essential travel to the whole of Spain after the country declared a state of emergency.

The country has introduced a series of measures including significant restrictions on movement throughout the country in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The FCO says: “Transport services will be operating at reduced levels. Public gatherings are banned, most shops other than those selling food or other essential items such as pharmacies will be closed, many businesses and all schools and universities are closed, and all citizens have been instructed to remain at home except when going about a limited set of activities in particular to buy food or other essential items, to return home to their primary residence, to go to hospital or other health centres, to go to work (if unable to work from home), to carry out caring or similar duties or in case of real need.”

UK nationals currently in Spain are advised to follow the advice of local authorities, while those with holidays plans should “consult their airline or tour operator.”

Ryanair has said it has been forced to severely reduce flights to and from Spain, the Balearic Islands and Canary Islands from 12am on Sunday 15 March until 12am on Thursday 19 March.

“We are contacting all affected customers by email to advise them of their options and we urge customers not to call us,” said the airline.

Many airlines are now allowing customers to rebook flights for the future free of charge amid the global pandemic. Holidaymakers with cancelled bookings should be able to claim on their travel insurance now that the FCO is advising against travel to Spain.​

TUI, which operates a large number of holidays to Spain, has announced it is suspending hotel stays, package holidays and cruises until further notice.

Spain is included in President Trump’s travel ban for incoming visitors, the CDC has advised citizens against non-essential travel to the country.

For the latest on-the-ground advice in Spain, the Spanish government has a dedicated website in English.

FCO advice on travelling to France

France currently has 2,269 cases of coronavirus according to the WHO, with 48 deaths.

The FCO does not advise against travelling to France.

However, the French government has announced emergency measures, including the closure of all non-essential establishments open to the public from 14 March, until further notice (i.e. restaurants, cafes, cinemas). Food shops, pharmacies, petrol stations, and banks will stay open.

Gatherings of more than 100 people have also been outlawed, and all ski resorts have now been closed early with the season coming to an abrupt finish. If you’re booked to travel to France for an event, make sure you check with the organisers to see if it’s still going ahead.

The FCO advises that some countries are imposing a compulsory period of quarantine for all travellers from France. “If you are travelling from or through France, please check the situation at your destination before you travel,” reads the website.

For those who have travelling from a country where “the virus is actively circulating”, the French government has said that they should monitor their temperature twice a day for 14 days, wear surgical masks when with relatives or outside the house, and avoid non-essential activities and at-risk individuals.

France is included in President Trump’s travel ban for incoming visitors, the CDC has advised citizens against non-essential travel to the country.

The French government also has a website with dedicated advice, which is updated daily but in French only.

FCO advice on travelling to Switzerland

Passengers leave Grand Princess cruise ship after coronavirus outbreak

Like France, Switzerland has banned events involving 100 or more people. You should check with organisers if the event you’re going to is going ahead before you travel.

Some ski resorts, leisure centres, swimming pools and museums are closed, while restaurants, bars and nightclubs are prohibited from holding more than 50 people. All schools, universities and training academies are closed until 4 April 2020. The Swiss government recommends social distancing and avoiding public transport (where services may be reduced).

There is no travel warning for Switzerland from the FCO, but local government may have additional screening procedures on entry. Some border crossings between Italy and Switzerland have been closed.

As of 13 March, the Swiss authorities announced that entry into Switzerland from Italy will be not be permitted, with only limited exemptions for those transiting, Swiss citizens and Swiss resident permit holders, and those with “compelling reasons” to enter.

Switzerland is included in President Trump’s travel ban for incoming visitors, the CDC has advised citizens against non-essential travel to the country.

For the latest advice, travellers can check the Swiss government’s dedicated website.

FCO advice on travelling to Austria

While the FCO does not currently advise against travelling to Austria, from 11.59pm on 16 March, there will no direct air links between Austria and the UK, Netherlands, Ukraine and Russia. As of midnight on 16 March, there will be no direct air or rail connections from Austria to Spain, France, and Switzerland. There are no direct flights and trains between Austria and Italy.

“You should contact your tour operator or airline for more information,” says the FCO.

There are also extensive restrictions within the country. All ski resorts are closing in the Tyrol, Salzburg and Vorarlberg provinces on 15 March. In Tyrol, the villages of Ischgl, Galtuer, See, and Kappl in the Patznaun Valley, and St Anton am Arlberg are under quarantine for the next 14 days (tourists will be allowed to leave).

From 16 March, restaurants, bars and cafes across the country will only be open until 3pm, and will be closed from 17 March. All shops, except supermarkets, banks, pharmacies and postal services, will be closed. ​

Special rules are in place if you’re travelling directly between Italy and Austria.

The FCO said: “Restrictions are currently in place on the border with Italy. Anyone wishing to cross the border is required to hold a medical certificate. The certificate needs to include the result of molecular biological test and must be no more than four days old, in English, German or Italian.”

It added: “Non-stop transit from Italy through Austria remains possible.”

Austria is also included in President Trump’s travel ban for incoming visitors, with the CDC advising citizens against non-essential travel to the country.

If you’re travelling for an event, make sure it’s still happening. The Austrian Interior Minister has announced a ban on indoor events of more than 100 people and outdoor events of more than 500 people.

FCO advice on travelling to Slovenia

The FCO is now advising against non-essential travel to Slovenia.

The government of Slovenia has announced that from midnight tonight, all flights to the country will be cancelled, including to and from the UK.

“Non-essential services” in the country have already been restricted with the vast majority of hotels, bars and restaurants ceasing operations. Grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, post offices and petrol stations will continue to operate.

Slovenia is included in President Trump’s travel ban for incoming visitors. US citizens have been advised by the CDC to avoid non-essential travel to Slovenia.

You can find the latest updates from the Slovenian government on any travel restrictions in English on its dedicated website.

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