How do I get my relatives to reconsider their summer travel plans?
May 20, 2020 2:44 PM   Subscribe

My uncle and aunt (both mid 60s) live in Portugal and are planning to drive up to Gothenburg, Sweden this summer. They plan to isolate in their summer house which is located on an island outside Gothenburg and have promised not to go into the city for the two months they are in the country. Both have high blood pressure, are slightly overweight (they are working on this), and my aunt takes medication for a mild heart condition. Help me talk them out of this plan.

The drive to Sweden will take 4-5 days - they’ll stay in hotels overnight. Apparently hotels in Europe guarantee that no one has used your room for three days before you move in. They’ll have to buy food from supermarkets. They have masks (I’m not sure if they have proper N95/N99 masks or just homemade clothes ones) and gloves and alcohol gel.

Any advice on how to talk them out of this plan would be appreciated. They also recently lost a slightly older acquaintance to coronavirus who incidentally was in great health with no known lifestyle conditions (unlike them!). And they are STILL keen to make this journey.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (10 answers total)
I don't quite understand how they plan to get there? Denmark is closed for transit right now, and as far as I know, the routes between Germany and Sweden have been reduced to a very small minimum, maybe only open for trade.
posted by mumimor at 3:22 PM on May 20 [3 favorites]

Well I doubt they'll be allowed to cross Germany, for one:

"Travelling through Germany to reach a destination outside Germany is only permitted if no alternative travel route exists and the onward journey, including through other countries of transit, is assured. Travellers must present rail or air tickets etc. to provide evidence of the purpose of their travel and of their fulfilment of the entry conditions for their country of destination and countries of transit. ...
Travellers without a valid reason for travel are not permitted to enter Germany. In the case of travellers with symptoms that could indicate infection with the coronavirus, the necessary measures will be taken in coordination with the public health authorities.

The decision whether to allow entry at the border is at the discretion of the border official.

Travellers must adhere to the quarantine rules of the relevant federal state of Germany."

The above is the current Federal guidance, from The various federal states may impose more stringent rules.

(And should they enter Germany from Switzerland, they might have to quarantine.)

Will they be able to wash their fabric masks at 60 degrees every day? Will the staff who have to clean their accommodation AFTER them be adequately protected? Can they navigate the hospital system in, say, Germany, including speaking the language, without causing an extraneous burden to staff and longer waits for local taxpayers? Will they keep 2 m apart from every person they pass on foot, as per current German guidelines, so as not to endanger them? What risks to other people are they happy to cause in order to enjoy their holiday? If they deserve to do this, why don't I deserve to get on a plane and go see my mum and dad?

Possible things to consider.
posted by runincircles at 3:38 PM on May 20 [3 favorites]

I get that you are worried about loved ones and want to hear how to stop this madness. I don’t think you can.

At this point I am not aware of any European country looking to prevent people from going on vacation this summer. Various European countries are actively negotiating how to move people in and out of popular destinations all over the continent, figuring out what safety and early warning mechanisms to put in place to allow their tourism industries to open for business without spiking infection rates. So a lot of people all over Europe will be travelling this summer. Some will prefer to stay home but many will decide to accept the risks and go. And they are not irresponsible or ill informed or morally wrong for doing so. Will the experience be anything like in the last few years, of course not, there will be all kinds of things like temperature checks and distancing in restaurants etc.

For the specifics of this trip. The countries they have to drive through are easing border restrictions already and have started to walk back various in country restrictions as well. Even at the height of this you were allowed to drive through Germany without having to self quarantine. The countries they would be travelling through are now managing the situation well, even if some weren’t initially. And all of them wouldn’t hesitate to increase restrictions again quickly if the infection rates increase again. Sweden has taken a unique approach which has failed their elderly population so that needs careful consideration. At the same time an isolated vacation home won’t be a pandemic hotspot but it may be too far out of the way to access medical care with ease.

So the question is one of personal risk assessments and careful planning. What precautions are required to reduce the risk to an acceptable (to them, not to you) level. What guidance on their specific risk factors is there and what does their doctor think of this plan. What exactly are their travel plans and what contingencies are they thinking about. Because the situation will remain fluid. If local infection hotspots develop these places will be locked down immediately without consideration for their hotel reservation. And they need to have a plan of how to get back if movement restrictions are tightened again over the summer, or en route. And be ready to cancel the trip all together if it becomes clear the second wave of infections is upon us.
posted by koahiatamadl at 5:06 PM on May 20 [17 favorites]

If they are Swedes to begin with, they will be able to travel. I would just honestly tell them you love them and this worries you and listen to their feelings too.
posted by frumiousb at 6:11 PM on May 20 [4 favorites]

I posted an FPP way back in March: OVER MY DEAD BODY YOU’RE GOING ON THAT CRUISE, DEBORAH that has a lot of discussion on the subject of talking to relatives about coronavirus risks, and back then, there was a lot of widespread support for staying at home as much as possible, but many people reported challenges related to convincing their parents to adapt to the "new normal." The discussion includes additional links that might be helpful, or at least offer a sense of solidarity.

However, you may want to encourage them to get medical advice about their trip, so their doctor is aware and can give them guidance about any concerns. For example, I have a relative who takes a heart medication who was not happy to learn that it also has an immuno-suppressant effect, and spent a while complaining about why hadn't they been informed of this by their doctor before the pandemic. I also have had my own experience with getting medical advice related to my own health conditions and recommended restrictions, which is why I think medical advice might help to at least provide your aunt and uncle with more information to consider for their decision.
posted by katra at 6:28 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]

So, tell them you love them and are worried about them and you hope they will re-consider this trip, or at the very least make sure they'll be able to cross all the appropriate borders. Say this with great love and affection and sincerity. And then let it go.

These are adult people. They get to make their own choices (as allowed by appropriate governments). Also, if they're not planning to leave for a month or so, it might be that the limits will become more clear on their own.
posted by bluedaisy at 8:09 PM on May 20 [8 favorites]

They are adults who get to make different decisions than the ones you would make. You can tell them your concerns and wish them well and that's it.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:13 AM on May 21 [8 favorites]

(And should they enter Germany from Switzerland, they might have to quarantine.)

They won’t be allowed into Switzerland, fyi. The border is closed to everyone except Swiss nationals and residents.
posted by daisyk at 11:18 AM on May 21

They won’t be allowed into Switzerland, fyi. The border is closed to everyone except Swiss nationals and residents.

Not exactly, some restrictions were already relaxed and the borders with France, Germany and Austria are expected to open fully by mid June, current status in English
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:46 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]

Empathetic approaches are described in this Vox article: “Do this for me”: How to convince older loved ones to socially distance and this previous AskMe: Help me persuade my dad to stay inside
posted by katra at 10:14 PM on May 24

« Older Your best recipe for brigadeiros   |   More gorgeous period costumes and murder Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments