Summer travel requirements for Europe



Published 2021-06-04 13:20:56
Travel photo created by freepik - www.freepik.com

Various European countries are urgently looking at ways to open for travel and tourism in time for the summer. Some are implementing mandatory Covid certificates (vaccine or test) to facilitate safe travel whilst others are classifying countries based on their latest success on the disease.

Pandemic fatigue has washed over the world as people struggle to adapt to the "new normal" and the big lifestyle changes we've all had to make. Some countries have a fairly good handle on their rate of Covid-19 infections and see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. The UK has just hit a significant milestone by registering zero Covid- related deaths on 1 June, and very low death rates for the last 30 days, even if they are concerned with the new Indian variant..  

A traffic light system for England

The government has employed a system which categorises countries:

  1.  those which require a maximum period of quarantine
  2. countries that require a shortened quarantine period
  3. countries that require no quarantine

This traffic light system labels a country either red, amber or green depending on a few factors like:

  1. Percentage of total population vaccinated
  2. Current infection rate
  3. Any variants emerging from that country

This sorting system is to safeguard the gains the government has achieved so far - a day of zero COVID deaths on 1 June and almost 75% of all adults receiving at least one dose of the vaccine.

People travelling from a "green" country will not require quarantine

At the beginning of May, the UK government announced a "green" list of countries that they will allow for non-essential travel. This included countries like Portugal, Singapore, Gibraltar, Israel, New Zealand, Australia, Brunei, Iceland, the Falklands and Faroe Islands.

Although travellers from England travelling to and from a "green" country require no isolation period once they arrive in the UK, they will still require PCR testing before they leave and after they return. They will need a PCR test within 72 hours of return travel and another test within two days of returning to England. Unlike many other countries, England requires travellers to pay for testing in private laboratories and therefore prices vary widely. Costs of PCR tests are approximately £120 but various travel companies have been markedly reducing the price in a bid to stimulate the travel industry (prices for mandatory test on arrivel here).

The "green" list as it stands took heavy criticism from the travel industry for overlooking popular Brit holiday destinations.

This current list of "green" countries is by no means set in stone as a final decision. The rapidly changing landscape of the pandemic makes it necessary to constantly review the list with changes happening almost overnight. The total green list to date: Singapore, Gibraltar, Israel, New Zealand, Australia, Portugal, Brunei, Iceland, the Falklands and Faroe Islands. However, as an example of the great uncertainty faced by the tourism industry, the UK announced that Portugal will be relegated to amber from next Tuesday. For many, the rule is only meant to stay... until the next change!

The other important question that applies is if the country on the green list is accepting tourists from the UK. "Green" countries like New Zealand, Singapore and Australia still have their borders closed for travellers.

Amber and Red list countries, with positions changing on short notice

The emergence of new variants is expected as the virus spreads and mutates. A few have already been identified since the beginning of the pandemic. Recently, a new variant first identified in India, which was designated by WHO as Delta, has created unease as it continues to spread.

On the 7th June, there will likely be more countries added to the "red" list, like Bahrain, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago and Kuwait, this according to the Evening Standard, in response to high infection rates in those countries.

Already, UK expats in these countries are scrambling to make travel plans to the UK before the 7th of June to avoid the ten-day hotel quarantine at the whopping cost of £1750.

On the other hand, certain airline experts believe that countries like Spain, France and Greece will be given a lauded position on the "green" list soon (which could be seen as a response to the tourism industry worries for popular British tourist destinations, as seen above); these countries are at present on the amber list.

The UK has plans to designate Heathrow's Terminal 4 solely for processing travel to and from "red" list countries (currently using T3). This is in a bid to prevent "red" list people mixing with people arriving from safer, "green" countries and to improve the efficiency of processing travellers because there is an expected surge in overseas travel over the summer period.

To-date this change applies only to England because Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have not confirmed any changes yet. Authorities plan on reviewing the green, red and amber lists every three weeks according to current COVID infection rates in those countries. How"ever, they also warn travellers to ensure any holiday bookings they make are refundable as these lists can change on short notice.

EU countries are making their own green" lists

European governments may have experienced some hits and misses in their response to the pandemic and the economy but they are now trying to deliver an almost "normal" summer.

According to The Guardian, the UK is not yet on the EU list of approved countries for non-essential travel but individual countries like Greece and Portugal have opened  to British tourists. So whilst the EU have made global recommendations, certain individual countries are making their own lists and rules.

France for example has decided to adopt, from 9 June, a traffic light system similar to the one in the UK. For countries classified in green (European area, Australia, South Korea, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, New Zealand, Singapore), no compelling reason is required and only unvaccinated people will have to show a PCR or antigen test. For countries classified in red, a compelling reason is necessary to come to France if your are not a French citizen, and tests are mandatory whether or not you are vaccinated. For countries classified in orange, such as the United States or Great Britain, a compelling reason (which includes being French) and test is only required for people not fully vaccinated.

The EU is trying to unify the rules

At the end of May the EU advised member countries to start the process of easing lockdown procedures and allow freedom of movement within the EU due to the overall high rate of vaccinations and general improvement in the COVID-19 responses of the various EU member states.

This freedom of movement is especially aimed at people with the official EU Digital Covid Certificate (formerly called the Digital Green Certificate).

This certificate is widely recognised by all member states and will allow for free movement within member states. It standardises Covid protocol across the EU and unifies the member states. People will be able to travel within the EU  to visit family and go on holiday.

Some important features of the EU Digital Covid Certificate:

  1. It is available both on paper and digitally, depending on the form the bearer wishes to carry. The digital version will be available on your compatible mobile device.
  2. It is free and will be available even if you were vaccinated, tested or recovered before the finalisation and implementation of this certificate.
  3. It has a QR code that is easy to scan and track across all member states.
  4. It will record any Covid vaccinations, any tests and recoveries without compromising the individual's privacy.
  5. In member states where certain activities are legally restricted to recovered, tested and or vaccinated individuals, countries can use this standardised certificate to enforce their national laws.
  6. Member states are urged not to impose further travel restrictions on holders of the certificate unless necessary to keep their citizens safe.
  7. The EU will also make funds available to member states to make Covid testing more affordable and to assist countries in the rollout of the certificate.

This new law will be formally adopted on 1 July and there is a six-week transition period in which countries can implement the new regulation. The EU will provide both financial and technical support to its member states during implementation and execution of the programme.

However, having a certificate is not a condition of travel for unvaccinated people within the EU; the right of freedom of movement of unvaccinated individuals is not infringed upon.

Some EU countries are technically (with the digital certificate) ready for summer travel:

  1. Bulgaria
  2. Croatia
  3. Denmark
  4. Germany
  5. Greece
  6. Poland.

The other member states are in the process of gearing up in time for the summer tourist season.

Perhaps, once more countries have a better handle on the pandemic, we can expect a standard vaccine certificate/passport that is recognised by multiple countries and allows non-essential travel.

But remember to make travel plans that are refundable and flexible because Covid has shown us just how unpredictable it can be. Also ensure you confirm all the latest requirements of your destination country before you book any travel plans.


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Author: KashGo
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