Closed Borders, Suspended Flights: Canadians Struggle to Leave Europe

Canadians stranded in Europe are trying to return home as many European countries as possible restrict traffic, close borders and suspend international flights to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The 27 member countries of the European Union have reported that COVID-19 has sickened more than 22,000 people on the continent and has killed at least 1,300 people so far.

David McCulloch is a player on a professional basketball team in Spain. Two days were enough for him to go from a little worry to the desire to return to Canada as quickly as possible.

He bought a plane ticket to return on Wednesday, but then reserved a seat on a take-off on Sunday.

“Things can happen in two days,” he says.

Spain has reported nearly 6000 cases of COVID-19, including more than 200 deaths. The country has introduced tougher restrictions on freedom of movement, including closing restaurants and other businesses for at least two weeks.

On Saturday, Poland suspended all of its international flights and trains, which threw many foreigners, including Canadians, into trouble when trying to find ways to get out of the country.

Canadians in the Polish city of Poznan, about 300 kilometers west of Warsaw, said they were told that the last flight from Warsaw to Toronto was complete.

Renata Kaniewski, an Ottawa-born woman who traveled to Poland for her mother’s funeral, said the next LOT Polish Airlines flight with available seats is only scheduled for March 29.

She said there is no guarantee that the flight will take place, as the Polish government has warned that international flights may be suspended longer.

“Right now, I’m worried that I won’t be able to return to Canada, even with a new plane ticket for March 29, because the government here in Poland continues to say that international flights may be delayed longer,” she said. And the information on TV here is silent on how foreigners can get home. They only talk about how Poland plans to bring its own nationals back to the country. ”

Poland reported nearly 100 cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, including two deaths.

Schools and many businesses across the country have been closed to slow the spread of COVID-19. In addition, restaurants are only allowed to sell take-out food.

Spencer Mason, who works in information technology in London, says his employer only allows him to work outside the office for up to two weeks. He feared that he would not be able to return to England so quickly.

“I’m afraid I will have to stay in Canada if I come home. Do I want to? I do not know.”

Others concede that home isolation is a small hassle, but are happy to see that the authorities take this crisis seriously. Julia Baird, who studies in Germany, has already prepared for her return: her parents will leave her a car at the airport which she will use to return to her city to place herself in quarantine at home.

“I would be more worried if I could get off the plane and live as if everything was normal.”

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