Status of Travel to Europe

As of April 30, 2021, the prospects look hopeful for U.S. travelers, wishing to travel to Europe once more, or the countries that comprise the European Union. Currently, travel is not restricted to the countries of UK and Serbia.

Requirements for Unrestricted Travel to Europe for Americans

The Serbian government, in December 2020, said passengers from the U.S. could enter the country by presenting a negative antigen test or negative PCR test for the coronavirus. 

If you wish to travel to the U.K., or England, Wales, or Northern Island, you must fill out a passenger locator form and show proof of a negative Covid-19 test that you took in the previous 3 days.

Before you go, you must pay around $290 for a test that has to be taken in a mandatory quarantine of 10 days, on or before the second day or on and after the eighth day. You can pay a hefty fine if you violate these measures (up to $13,860) or face 10 years in prison.

If you plan to travel to Scotland, you must follow the above mandates, but you must spend your 10-day self-isolation period in a quarantine in a hotel, approved by the government, at your own expense. This rule also applies to anyone who has received a vaccination.

The latest report about travel to Europe (April 30, 2021), indicates that travel may pick up for Americans who have received full vaccination for Covid-19. After a shut-down of non-essential travel for over a year, Americans who show proof of immunity may be able to travel again in Europe. What happens next hinges on policy changes for vaccine certificates. 

The European Union will accept travelers vaccinated with approved vaccines, so the future appears brighter for Americans who wish to enjoy the culture and history of major European countries, such as Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland, and Italy. However, the current travel bans make it imperative that travelers remain realistic – waiting it out while measures fall into place to prevent future outbreaks.

In the meantime, your travel planning is subject to change. While vaccination remains an obstacle in travel planning, so does the switching of hot spots where the virus prevails globally. Therefore, in the current environment, nothing is set in stone.

EU countries have agreed to coordinate on the restriction of free movement in response to Covid-19. The EU has created a color code to classify regions – green, orange, yellow, and gray, based on the epidemiological situation in the color-coded region.

While green denotes the fewest number of cases involving Covid-19, red areas define danger zones where self-quarantine and testing must be followed.

The Czech Republic: The Hardest Hit Country

The Czech Republic is considered a high-incidence area in Europe. Therefore, travel is prohibited and hotels have closed. Museums, theaters, and recreational facilities remain closed as well. Most restaurants only serve take-out food.

The Traffic Light System

The above color coding in place is based on a traffic light system that the EU has imposed to determine the level of the disease outbreak. Most of the countries are in the dangerous red zone. 

At this time (April 30, 2021), several EU nations plan to extend or re-impose lockdown measures, as a third wave of the pandemic sweeps over Europe, triggered by new variants of the coronavirus, one of which is a B17 mutation, first discovered in Britain in the UK.

This new wave is affecting Germany, Denmark, Italy, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain. To combat the current virulent UK strain, the EU is blocking travel entry with exception of essential travel and freight shipments.

The Digital Green Certificate

On March 17, 2021, the European Commission proposed the creation of a Digital Green Certificate to promote safe and free movements of citizens inside the EU during the pandemic. Digital Green Certificates are valid in all EU member states.

The Digital Green Certificate offers proof that a person has received a Covid-19 vaccination, they received a negative test result, or they recovered from the virus. Officials plan to issue the certificate through hospitals, health authorities, or similar facilities. The digital version may be stored in a mobile device, or a paper version, with a QR code, containing essential information, may be obtained. A digital seal will be added to authenticate the document.

The Digital Green Certificate is designed so restrictions now in place can be lifted gradually and in an organized manner. When traveling, each EU citizen or third-country national residing or temporarily staying in the EU can be exempted from restrictions imposed on free movement. If one of the EU member states requires a holder of a Digital Green Certificate to test or quarantine, it must notify the European Commission and the other EU member states, justifying the decision.

The Digital Green Certificate’s QR codes contain a digital signature to prevent falsification. The Certificate is mainly designed to prove testing results, which are frequently required when public health restrictions are in place. By implementing the Certificate in the EU, European Commission members can adjust any current restrictions to promote future travel. Vaccination certificates will be issued to vaccinated persons for any Covid-19 vaccine.

To waive free movement restrictions, member states in the EU must accept vaccination certificates for vaccines that have received marketing authorization by the EU. The Digital Green Certificate contains required key details, such as the holder’s name, date of birth, issuance date, and info about a vaccine, testing, or recovery. The Certificates will only feature the necessary data. All health information will remain with the member state that issued the Certificate.

According to the European Commission, it will establish a digital infrastructure that will enable it to authenticate the Digital Green Certificates. In response, member states in the EU will introduce changes in their nation’s health records network

The European Commission is currently working with the World Health Organization (WHO) to make sure the Digital Certificates issued in the EU can be recognized in other places of the world. 

The European Commission has also contacted the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) about the Certificates. The ICAO creates the specifications needed to support machine-readable travel documents, including visas and passports.

More about Color-Coding and Mapping for Travelers 

Based on information from member states in the EU, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control plans to publish a map of EU member states categorized by regions, showing the risk levels of the pandemic. This traffic light system will show regions in the colors of green, orange, red, dark red, and gray. The map will also provide data from Liechtenstein, Norway, and Iceland. 

Each color is signified as follows:

Green indicates that the notification rate of the disease is less than 25, and the test positivity rating is less than 4%.

Orange areas are regions where the notification rate is less than 50 but the test positivity rating is over 4%. The notification rate may span from 25 to 150 as well, but the test positivity score is under 4%.

Red is shown in places where the notification rate is 50 or over, and the test positivity rate is at least 4%, or the notification rate is over 150.

Dark red reveals an area where the notification rate is 500.

A map with gray areas indicates that sufficient information has not been obtained, or the testing rate is 300 or less.

From the map, travelers can determine pandemic risk in the area where they travel. In turn, travelers should be able to see if they will have to follow certain measures if they travel to certain EU destinations. The mapping will be supported by the information contained on the Re-open EU website.

Referring to color-coding and mapping details, member states should discourage non-essential travel to and from dark red areas and red areas. The mapping will enable member states to decide on the introduction of certain travel restrictions, such as tests or quarantines on travelers coming from other areas. Member states have agreed not to place restrictions, such as testing or quarantine, on travelers coming from low-risk green regions.

Member states that consider it mandatory to introduce free movement restrictions may require persons traveling from an area, other than a green area, to undergo self-quarantine or quarantine or to take a Covid-19 test before or after arrival.

Each member state must decide what measures it wishes to apply to travelers coming from risk areas to specific locales, and whether to require a rapid antigen or RT-PCR test. 

Member states may also require travelers who enter their territory to submit a passenger locator form. As previously noted, this form is required by the UK for anyone traveling from the U.S.

Travelers Travelling Because of an Essential Function

Any traveler who is traveling because of an essential function typically will not undergo quarantine if they arrive from an orange, red, or gray area. These individuals include:

  • Persons in critical occupations, including health care employees, or anyone referred to in the guidelines issued for the free movement of workers during the pandemic.
  • Transport workers, including people who drive freight vehicles.
  • Patients traveling for important medical reasons.
  • Students who travel abroad daily.
  • People having to travel for business or family reasons.
  • Diplomats and people whose presence is required on behalf of certain international organizations.
  • Military personnel, police officers or workers who provide humanitarian aid in the exercise of their duties.
  • Journalists who must cover stories.

Because dark red areas increase the risk of the pandemic spreading, member states are advised to require travelers from the areas to take part in a pre-departure test and undergo self-isolation and quarantine.

Will Vaccinations Make Travel, Once Again, Possible?

On February 25, the EU said it planned to introduce a vaccination certificate for trip-goers by summer 2021. Traditional countries, such as Greece, pin high hopes on the vaccination certificates. The Greek government has made a bilateral agreement with Israel that allows Israeli nationals to enter Greece with a green pass – proof that the holder has received the required vaccination.

In addition, Denmark and Sweden announced the creation of electronic vaccination certificates used for traveling abroad. In Estonia, entrants do not have to follow the country’s quarantine requirement if they show proof of vaccination. The same applies in Poland, where an app is being developed to show vaccination proof.

Europe’s 5 Most-Visited Countries

The 5 most visited countries in Europe include Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and the UK. Of these countries, traveling to France, Italy, Spain, and the UK continues to carry heavy restrictions.

1. German Travel Restrictions

In Germany, nationwide measures have been facilitated to keep citizens from traveling for nonessential reasons inside and outside the country. If you enter Germany by plane, you need to take an advanced coronavirus test. Only travelers with a negative test can fly into the country. This rule applies, regardless of the pandemic status in a departure country. The country announced tighter controls at the borders as well. Anyone crossing a border will be checked.

Tourism, as of April 30, 2021, in Germany remains prohibited, Hotels cannot offer overnight stays for tourists and visas are not granted except in special cases. Distance and hygiene rules must be followed, and masks must be medical. 

The country has outlined a new classification system that divides geographical areas as high risk, high-incidence, and virus-variant. A Covid-19 test must be completed within 48 hours and a 10-day quarantine must immediately take place, regardless of the test result.

Since January 24, 2021, countries in Europe that have been classified as high-incidence areas include the Netherlands, France, Estonia, Poland, Hungary, and Montenegro.

2. The Pandemic and Travel in France

France represents the top travel destination in the world with regards to arrivals. At this time (April 30, 2021), the country has banned travel with countries outside the EU due to a high infection rate and mutation of Covid-19. Travelers over 11 years old from European countries must show proof of a negative PCR test, taken within 72 hours. 

3. Travel in the UK

Anyone traveling to the UK must provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test (LAMP, antigen, or PCR). The test must be taken up to 3 days before travel begins. The regulation applies to England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Anyone entering the country, regardless of where they come from, must fill out a passenger locator form. 

Great Britain has begun easing lockdown restrictions with the aim of ending all the measures by June 21, 2021. Since March 31, 2021, Britons have been able to go outside in groups of no more than 6 people.

While the stay-at-home rule has been relaxed, the government still advises citizens to work at home, if possible. Since April 12, 2021, stores, beauty salons, and outdoor catering services in restaurants and pubs began to resume activities.

People in the country wear masks on public transport, in cabs, and in groceries. Travel abroad or within the UK remains restricted unless the reason for travel is imperative.

4. Italy’s Travel Restrictions

Italy extended its state of emergency until April 30, 2021, with entry from abroad heavily prohibited. You can learn more about travel restrictions by accessing the country’s Foreign Ministry website.

While entry into Italy from most European countries is allowed, travelers must still provide a Covid-19 test result taken within 48 hours of entry. They must also undergo a 5-day quarantine, and show another negative test result after 5 days. 

Visitors must report to local health authorities upon arrival as well and complete a self-declaration form. Travelers from the UK, other than Italian citizens, have been banned entry indefinitely. Flights to and from Brazil are banned as well. No one, other than an Italian citizen, who has transited through Brazil within the last 14 days. can enter Italy.

Italy has implemented the traffic light system for lockdown. Sardinia sits in the red zone, which has the highest infection risk. Residents must stay home except for work, to run essential errands or to seek medical treatment.

Basilicata, Valle Aosta, Puglia, Calabria, and Sicily fall inside the orange zone – a classification for medium risk infection. Other areas in the country are yellow zones, with low risks of infection. At this time (April 30, 2021), only outdoor dining is permitted. Italians must abide by a 10 pm to 5 am curfew.

5. Travel in Spain

Spain allows unrestricted entry from the EU, the Schengen Area and some third countries. The country, on February 4, 2021, noted restrictions on inbound flights from South Africa and Brazil. This was done to stop the spread of the coronavirus from those countries. 

The country, which has been struck hard by the virus, has issued a state of alert and overnight curfew until May 9, 2021. Restrictions regarding travel vary in each of Spain’s autonomous regions. Therefore, different rules apply in the country, depending on the locale’s regulations. Restaurants may only serve or sell outdoors. Health clubs remain closed and concert halls and movie theaters only allow patrons to use a small percentage of their seats. Some separate coronavirus hotspots have been sealed off.

A Major Slump in Travel

Because of the bans on travel in Europe, worldwide tourism slumped drastically in 2020. Travel experts reported almost a 75% decline in global travel. Forecasts for 2021 continue to remain cautious as some bans on travel relax a bit. Emerging trends focus on home-based holidays and vacations that are nature-based or sustainable.

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