The Promise Of International Travel: EU Restrictions

The picture across the EU area (plus the U.K.) in April is one of cautious optimism; countries are planning how to emerge from current lockdowns and open up to international travel

Photo: unsplash.com/yousef alfuhigi

The next few weeks will determine how far and fast this can happen and indeed, if it will be uniform across the region:

  • whilst many countries are still struggling with high infection rates, many are relaxing lockdown measures and heading into a ‘lockdown light’ modus operandi for May;
  • after a slow start, many EU countries have seen a significant upturn in the quantities of vaccine being given, although health fears over AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, are dampening progress;
  • three EU countries have already announced dates for reopening–Greece by 14 May, Malta on 1 June, and Denmark plans to reopen to vaccinated passengers on 26 June. In addition, the U.K. will open up on 17 May (but possible 1 July), Israel has announced plans to reopen to vaccinated passengers from May and Iceland is already open to vaccinated passengers;
  • the question is how they will reopen. Will they do it under the guise of the new EU digital vaccine certificates or use another system? And how will they control internal EU borders, if one country is open and another closed? As islands, Iceland and Ireland would possibly be easier to manage, but the mainland would be more problematic.

Austria is only allowing entry across its borders to anyone other than Austrian nationals if they come from an EU or Schengen area country plus the agreed small list of safe countries allowed into the EU (Australia, Iceland, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the Vatican).

All arrivals must be in possession of a negative PCR or antigen test result taken no more than 72 hours before arrival into Austria. If they cannot provide a certificate, travelers must take one within 24 hours. Everyone must then go into a ten-day quarantine and can test out after 5 days with another negative test result.


Belgium—countries now color-coded for entry

Arrivals from EU, Schengen area and the EU’s safe list are technically allowed entry to Belgium but all countries have been color-coded and all of these are currently red, except for 8 countries which are labelled orange: Denmark (Zealand, Southern Denmark, Central Jutland, North Jutland), Spain (Galicia, Extremadura, Valencian Community, Baleares), Finland (North and East Finland, Aland), Ireland (Northern & Western Ireland, Southern Ireland), Iceland, Italy (Sardinia), Norway (Innlandet, Northern Norway, Adger and Southeastern Norway, Western Norway, Trondelag) and Portugal. The EU’s safe country list are currently labelled green–Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.

Anyone traveling from a red country must take a PCR test before departure and it must be negative.

If people must travel, they must fill in a a "Public Health Passenger Locator Form" 48 hours before arrival. Based on their answers, visitors will receive a test message if they are high risk and need to quarantine for 10 days. If they do, they must take a Covid-19 test on days 1 and day 7. If visitors do not receive a text message, they do not need to quarantine. Answers are based on the ECDC’s traffic light system of risk.


Bulgaria—negative test or 10-day quarantine

From 2 February to 30 April, Bulgarians and residents of EU/Schengen area countries who arrive in the country (and their families) must take a PCR test before entry or they must go into a ten-day quarantine.

Bulgaria does not follow the ECDC’s traffic light system and is operating its own list of who is able to come into the country from overseas. Travelers from the following countries are allowed to enter–if they are in possession of a negative PCR test taken in the 72 hours prior: Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay, United Arab Emirates, the U.K., Israel, Belarus, Kuwait, Turkey, Albania, Montenegro, Moldova, Ukraine, North Macedonia, Kosovo and Bosnia & Herzegovina.


Croatia—still only EU/Schengen area arrivals

Travelers arriving from EU/Schengen countries must be in possession of a negative Covid-19 test result upon arrival. If not, they must have one taken at the airport and go into quarantine until the results arrive. Travelers from outside the EU/Schengen are not allowed except for specific circumstances, such as medical workers.


Cyprus—most EU countries on red list

At its borders, Cyprus has three categories (green, orange and red) based on a country’s epidemiological situation, and updates the list to announce who can enter and how. Every passenger must fill in a Cyprus Health Pass upon arrival.

There are currently only 6 countries on the green list, the most epidemiologically sound: Australia, Korea, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Thailand.

The orange list–China, Denmark, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Macao and Portugal–from which people must arrive with proof of a negative Covid-19 test result.

All other EU/Schengen countries are on the red list, where people can only enter if they take a Covid-19 test upon arrival at their own cost of €60 ($73) and they must quarantine until their result is issued.


Czech Republic—Belgium and Netherlands moved onto dark red list

Travel requirements were updated 5 April following the ECDC’s traffic light system, where arrivals have been grouped into dark red, red, yellow, and green categories, with red being the most at risk.

Orange category countries are Portugal, the Azores and Balearic Islands and Iceland. The green list countries are Vatican City State, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and Singapore. All other EU countries are on the red or dark red list.

Travelers from green areas can enter without restrictions whilst those arriving from yellow areas must fill in the arrival form and be in possession of a negative Covid-19 test result (antigen or PCR). The criteria for arrivals from red zones is the same, but in addition, people must enter quarantine and take a second PCR test on day 5, which must come out negative for people to release themselves. Arrivals from dark red countries must take PCR tests for entry and again on day 5 of quarantine (rather than antigen).

For all arrivals into the Czech Republic from yellow or any red zone, for a period of 10 days, it is obligatory to wear respirators with a protection class of at least FFP2, KN95, N95, P2, DS, or at least a disposable medical mask, everywhere away from home.


Denmark—borders open to EU/Schengen from 1 May

There is currently a travel ban in place but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced in mid-April that it would reopen borders to anyone resident in EU/Schengen area countries from 1 May. The government will issue an update on a weekly basis to keep abreast of the situation and return to using the traffic light map of the ECDC. Visitors from countries marked as red, will still need to take swab tests within 48 hours of arriving in Denmark.

This is part of a phased reopening of the country to international tourism. The final phase is planned for 26 June, to coincide with the launch of an EU digital vaccine certificate, when vaccinated passengers will be allowed in.

Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said, “Denmark is in a good place. We must not risk a setback now. Therefore, we must take into account that the infection is increasing in several places in Europe and the risk of new mutations.”


Estonia—most EU countries using 10-day isolation rule

As of 5 April, arrivals from the these countries will encounter entry restrictions upon arrival in Estonia: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Spain, the Netherlands, Croatia, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malta, Monaco, Norway, Poland, France, Sweden, Romania, Germany, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Finland, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

If the infection rate in these countries is higher than 150 people per 100,000 people in the last 14 days, arrivals must quarantine for 10 days. They can shorten this period if they arrive with a negative test and also receive a negative test on day 6.

Iceland, Liechtenstein, Portugal, Denmark and the U.K. are currently exempt because of their low infection rates, as are the EU’s safe countries–Australia, South Korea, Rwanda, Singapore, Thailand and New Zealand. All other third-country nationals cannot travel for tourism reasons.

Finland—restrictions extended to 30 April

Restrictions for entry into Finland were extended to 30 April 2021. For countries with high incidence rates, travel for recreational reasons is forbidden and any arrivals must enter a 14-day quarantine, which they can shorten with a negative test on arrival and one five days later.

Travelers from EU and Schengen countries are allowed in but they must have proof of a negative Covid-19 test, taken in the 72 hours prior to arrival and be traveling for an essential reason. There are no restrictions on entry for residents of Australia, South Korea, Rwanda, Singapore, Thailand and New Zealand, nor from the Vatican.


France—only 7 non-EU countries can enter

It is not possible, currently, for French people to travel outside of their region so travel to EU outsiders is extremely limited. Within the EU, people are allowed in but discouraged and must be in possession of a negative Covid-19 test result, taken not less than 72 hours before departure.

France had banned all travel from outside the EU/Schengen areas but from Friday 12 March it relaxed rules to 7 non-EU countries, meaning that it is no longer necessary to have motif impérieux (compelling reasons) to travel to and from these countries–Australia, South Korea, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, the U.K. and Singapore. However, arrivals from these 7 non-EU countries must quarantine for 7 days.


Germany—all arrivals must show negative test results

Currently, entry is possible for EU members, Schengen states and the countries approved by the EU with low infection rates: Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.

Journeys must be approved the German border police.

All travelers arriving into Germany must show proof of a negative Covid-19 test before they can board an aircraft, ferry, bus or train. Regardless of the result, arrivals from these high-risk areas must quarantine for ten days. Entry from other countries is only possible at present for urgent reasons.

Greece—wants to reopen internationally on 14 May

Greece’s Tourism Minister Harry Theocharis announced a plan to parliament on 5 April to reopen to international tourists on 14 May, provided they can present either a vaccination document or a negative Covid-19 test result upon arrival. Control systems will be in place at the border and quarantine hotels will be available, if needed.

At the moment, all non-EU citizens are not allowed to enter, except those from the EU’s safe list, plus the U.K. the UAE, the Russian Federation and Israel. The addition of the latter four countries reflects specific deals between Greece and these countries to facilitate travel from heavily vaccinated nations through air corridors.

All passengers must fill in a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) and have taken a Covid-19 PCR test and received a negative result no more than 72 hours before departure. They will also be subject to random testing. All arrivals will still have to self-isolate at the address on their PLF for 7 days. If any of these results are positive, the quarantine will be extended to 14 days. Rules will be reviewed again on 19 April.


Hungary—borders are still closed

The country had opened its borders without restrictions to citizens of the EU, the European Economic Area (excluding the U.K.) and Switzerland on June 21. However, it closed its borders on September 1 to all foreign nationals, after spiking rates of infection–and this order still stands. People can now enter from such countries if they are to perform at sporting events or other similar exemptions.


Iceland—quarantine from high risk countries

Since 18 March, travelers arriving from anywhere in the world have been allowed to enter if they can show proof of having been vaccinated (obviously twice, with a two-dose vaccine) or having had Covid-19. However, once inside Iceland, travel is not permitted to other Schengen area zones for non-Schengen residents.

For the unvaccinated, there are no entry restrictions for visitors holding passports (or valid residency) from EU/EFTA countries, but this no longer includes the U.K. and all arrivals (even vaccinated ones) must undergo testing procedures, unless they were born after 2005.

If people arrive from high-risk countries (where the 14-day case notification rate exceeds 500 per 100,000 inhabitants), they must quarantine in a government-appointed facility at a cost of ISK 10,000 per night per room, including food (about $80).

Ireland—mandatory quarantine for everyone

Currently, all travel can only be undertaken if it is essential–even around Ireland.

Ireland is using the ECDC's traffic light map of travel restrictions, meaning it adheres to the same guidelines as most other EU countries. Everyone arriving in Ireland must quarantine (except from Northern Ireland) but people without a negative PCR test and/or arriving from a high-risk country, must quarantine in a government-mandated hotel. All arrivals into Ireland must complete a Passenger Locator Form and be in possession of a negative PCR test result taken within 72 hours before departure.


Italy—loosening travel restrictions, all over

The country is divided into red zones where all but essential shops are shut and schools must hold online classes and orange zones where shops and schools are open but bars and restaurants must offer only takeaway service. White zones can stay completely open. At the beginning of April, Italy was loosening restrictions, moving some regions from red to orange.

Italy has recently also reduced the quarantine time from 14 days to 5 for arrivals from 30 European countries, but also including Israel and the U.K.–this policy runs from 7-30 April. However, even these arrivals must still submit a negative test taken within 48 hours of arrival in Italy, and they must take a second test coming out of the five-day quarantine.


Latvia—quarantine still in place for essential travel

The country is urging everyone “to refrain from travelling unless it is absolutely necessary.” However, if travel is urgent and essential, it is possible from an EU country, providing travelers meet the requirements.

In this context, anyone arriving from an EU country where the 14-day cumulative indicator is higher than 50, must go into a 10-day quarantine, which currently affects most EU countries plus the U.K., as per ECDC recommendations.

All arrivals must fill in an electronic form 48 hours before arriving in the country and all arrivals must have proof of a negative Covid-19 test.


Lithuania—stricter travel measures from 31 countries

The government announced stricter isolation measures to contain Covid-19 to arrivals from 31 countries. The country has been following the ECDC traffic light map for allowing access. Lithuania is allowing access from most EEA countries but all arrivals must have proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken up to 48 hours before entry and a 10-day mandatory quarantine is required regardless of the result, although people can ‘test out’ with a negative result on day 7. An updated list of countries can be found online.


Luxembourg—non-EU travel banned

Luxembourg has not restricted its border from other European visitors, regardless of the purpose of the visit, although travel from outside Europe is banned except for those visitors from the countries deemed low risk by the EU. However, anyone boarding an aircraft to Luxembourg must have had a negative Covid-19 test result taken in the 72 hours beforehand.

Malta—open to international travel on 1 June

For international travel, Malta is operating a system of green, amber and red lists.

Travelers arriving from countries on the green list don't have any restrictions and will not be subject to a swab test upon arrival, although there are currently zero countries on the green list.

Other countries are on an ‘amber list’ where visitors need to show negative Covid-19 tests taken within 72 hours prior to boarding flights to Malta and will be subject to random swab tests upon arrival. As of 14 April, amber list countries are: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China (Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan included), Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Latvia, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay and Vatican City.

All other countries are on the red list and arrivals from these must have spent at least the 14 days prior in a safe corridor country before reaching Malta. It is also recommended that they take a PCR test 72 hours before they arrive.


The Netherlands—follow the 6-point plan

The government is strongly advising that no one travels to the Netherlands, and will review this on 15 April. There is an updated 6-point check list for anyone looking to travel to the Netherlands, namely:

1) you must be resident in the EU/Schengen area, but there are exemptions.

2) there is a current flight ban for South Africa and Central and South American flights.

3) travelers arriving by aircraft, ship, train or coach must have proof of a negative molecular NAAT test (PCR, RT PCR, LAMP, TMA or mPOCT) taken 72 hours before arrival. There are some exemptions, e.g. lorry drivers.

4) anyone arriving by air or sea from a high-risk country must also take a rapid nasal swab test before departure.

5) if you are traveling by air, you must fill in a health declaration form.

6) all travelers must quarantine for 10 days and can test out after day 5 with a negative test result.

Travel is also allowed for nationals or residents of the EU-wide safe list.

Norway—borders completely closed

Norway’s borders are closed to everyone except Norwegian nationals and residents, even other EU countries. Of these travelers, anyone arriving from a red, high-risk region must have a negative Covid-19 test result with them. A ten-day quarantine is also required. The order was updated on 23 March to include April.


Poland—avoid unnecessary travel

Everyone is asked to avoid unnecessary foreign travel. Borders are open for EU and EFTA nationals but anyone arriving by public transport must self-isolate for 10 days, unless they have a negative Covid-19 test result with them.


Portugal—all arrivals being tested

Portugal extended the tight control of its air, sea and land borders from 3 April except to a few exceptions, such as seasonal workers and freight drivers. EU/Schengen area residents can enter but third-party nationals cannot.

Of the arrivals allowed in from EU/Schengen area countries, there are specific rules and most are only allowed in for essential reasons–those countries on the list are: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Slovenia, Estonia, France, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Poland, Sweden (countries with an incidence rate of 500 cases or more per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days) and travel which originated in Germany, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Slovakia, Finland, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Netherlands, Romania, and Switzerland (countries with an incidence rate of 150 cases or more and less than 500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days).

As per the government’s instructions, all passengers, excluding children under 24 months, must be in possession of a negative RT-PCR SARS-CoV-2 test taken within 72 hours of boarding.


Romania—expects to lift travel restrictions by May

From 15 March, people coming from the following countries are allowed to enter but must quarantine for 14 days: Andorra, Armenia, Aruba, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Bermuda, Bonaire, Saint Eustatius & Saba, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Croatia, Curaçao, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Hungary, Isle of Man, Italy, Jordan, Kosovo, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Monaco, Montenegro, The Netherlands, Northern Macedonia, Palestine, Poland, Puerto Rico, Republic of Moldova, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine and Uruguay.

A negative Covid-19 test result will allow travelers to be released from self-isolation after day ten. If travelers have been vaccinated at least ten days before arrival, they do not need to quarantine. The government expects to lift most restrictions at the end of April.


Slovakia—travel bans extended to 28 April

Existing rules have been extended until 28 April meaning that unnecessary travel is not allowed abroad. People arriving from low-risk countries (Australia, China, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan) can enter unimpeded. All other arrivals from EU areas must arrive with proof of a negative Covid-19 test but won’t need to quarantine. All arrivals from other countries, including the U.K. must quarantine and take a second PCR test.


Slovenia—most of the world still on ‘red list’

Many countries around the world are still on the red list, including most of the EU, where arrivals must possess a negative Covid-19 PCR test or quarantine for ten days. Arrivals from any country not on the red list can enter unimpeded.

 

Spain—U.K. arrival ban revoked

Only arrivals from the Schengen area or EU approved non-member states are allowed to enter–arrivals from Brazil and South Africa are restricted. U.K. arrivals are now subject to the same requirements as EU residents and allowed to enter but subject to a strict list of reasons (tourism not being one of them).

All EU and U.K. arrivals must be in possession of a negative Covid-19 test result taken within 72 hours. Passengers from outside of the EU and U.K. are banned.


Sweden—extended travel ban to 31 May

Sweden extended a ban on all non-essential travel from outside the EU/EEA area until May 31 and everyone arriving must have a negative Covid-19 test taken in the 48 hours prior to arrival. The Public Health Agency of Sweden recommends a further test on day five after arrival and to stay at home for at least seven days after arrival. The only exception are arrivals from Denmark and Norway, who are now allowed to come and go without testing, to improve their ability to work across all three borders. The U.K. is now considered a third-party country.


Switzerland—reopening despite ‘the risk’

The Swiss government announced on 14 April that it was easing lockdown restrictions, despite acknowledging that it was a risk–restaurants and bars will be allowed to serve outdoors and cinemas and indoor sports facilities are opening up.

Anyone arriving from a high-risk country (non EU/Schengen or non-EU ‘safe’ countries) must go into quarantine or face a fine and crucially, a negative PCR test does not exempt travelers. All travelers need to fill in a questionnaire which will guide people on measures to take.


U.K.–international travel earmarked for 17 May

The U.K. is easing steadily out of lockdown (in different phases across Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England)–for instance, pubs were allowed to serve food and drink outside from 12 April.

Travel and tourism to and inside the U.K. is currently heavily regulated. Since 15 February, all arrivals from 30 high-risk countries must quarantine in government-appointed hotels for ten days.

However, all eyes are on 17 May as the next big day for international travel, with airline carriers pushing for–at the very least–an air bridge between the U.K. and the U.S. because of successful vaccination efforts on both sides of the Atlantic.

After May, the next big day given by the U.K. government for a resumption of international travel is 1 July, depending on infection and vaccination rates over the next few weeks.

Alex Ledsom, Senior Contributor

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