European travel restrictions: Nonessential travel curbed | DW Travel | DW

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The European Union

Several European Union nations, are extending or re-imposing lockdown measures ― and with it travel and entry requirements ― as a third wave of the pandemic sweeps the continent, fueled by contagious new variants of the coronavirus ― particularly the B117 mutation first discovered in Britain, which is spreading rapidly in at least 27 European countries and, according to the World Health Organization, now dominates in Germany, Italy, Denmark, Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal. Since January EU leaders have been discussing restricting nonessential trips across the bloc’s internal borders to contain the spread of the coronavirus, after mutant strains emerged from the UK, South Africa and Brazil. Since January 24, anybody arriving from outside the EU — possible only for those with essential reasons — would have to have a test for COVID-19 before departure. To combat the virulent UK strain, the EU has already blocked all but freight or travelers on essential trips from entering the bloc from Britain.

Detailed information is available on the European Commission website.

Complete information and resources for each of the individual 27 EU member states is also available on the EU’s Reopen EU website.

However, each EU country maintains its own standards for deciding whether and how citizens of third countries may enter if they are already in an EU or Schengen country. Each EU member state also decides and implements its own further measures to curb the spread of the pandemic, such as quarantines upon entry from another region or country. Local regulations also differ widely on various social distancing measures, curfews and mask-wearing requirements.

A hand holding a passport and a vaccination certificate - an airport flight departure board in the background

The EU is pushing ahead with work on a single COVID-19 vaccination passport

Understanding the EU coronavirus traffic light system

In order to provide travelers in Europe with a better overview of the corona infection situation and possible restrictions, the EU has introduced a  coronavirus traffic light system . According to this, the EU is divided into green, orange and red zones. In addition, there is the color gray for regions from which not enough data are available. Currently, the color red dominates the continent.

If you still have to travel, the EU Commission’s Re-open EU App can also help. It provides up-to-date information on the health situation, safety precautions, and travel restrictions for all EU countries and the members of the border-free Schengen area, which includes Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.

Please note: The information listed here is not exhaustive, serves as a reference only and is subject to change at any time. All travelers to and within Europe, the EU and the Schengen Area are strongly advised to keep informed with the official guidance and regulations of local, state and national authorities of the relevant countries.

Spain - Mallorca - an empty beach with wicker parasols

Empty beaches where the masses sunbathed before the pandemic — a picture that has almost become familiar

Will vaccinations make vacations possible again?

On February 25, the EU decided to introduce a uniform vaccination certificate for travelers by the summer. Especially traditional vacation countries like Greece are pinning high hopes on the vaccination cards. The Greek and Cypriot governments have also already concluded a bilateral agreement with Israel, according to which from April all Israeli nationals will be able to enter the country without any problems if they show Israel’s recently-introduced “green pass,” which provides proof that the bearer has been vaccinated. Malta is also in talks to this effect with Israel.

Sweden and Denmark have announced the creation of electronic vaccination certificates, which will be used primarily when traveling abroad. In Estonia, on the other hand, entrants are already exempt from the general quarantine requirement if they present proof of vaccination. The same applies in Poland, where an app is being developed specifically for this purpose.

Europe’s five most-visited countries: Germany, France, UK, Italy, and Spain

Germany, along with France, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom, is among the world’s 10 most-visited countries, according to the UN World Tourism Organization. Travel to France, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom remain heavily restricted.

Germany 

Abandoned cafe chairs and tables are seen on the deserted Unter den Linden boulevard leading up to landmark Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany

Areas usually bustling with tourists remain quiet and closed in Germany’s lockdown

The nationwide measures to curb the coronavirus have been extended until April 18, 2021. The German government is appealing urgently to all citizens to refrain from nonessential travel within the country and also abroad.

As of midnight on March 30, anyone entering Germany by airplane will need to take a coronavirus test in advance. Only those with a negative test will be allowed to fly into the country. The rule applies irrespective of the pandemic status in the country of departure.

Tourism in Germany remains prohibited for the time being. Hotels are not allowed to offer overnight stays for tourist purposes, tourist visas are only granted in exceptional cases. Travel within the country is only possible for certain essential reasons, for example business trips, and is made more difficult by ever-changing regulations that must be observed. In places with a particularly high incidence (more than 200 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within a week), the radius of movement is restricted to 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) around the place of residence. Thus, anyone considering or planning travel over 15 kilometers away from home must keep apprised of the regulations in effect in the destination area.

Throughout Germany a lockdown has been in effect since mid-December and will remain until at least April 18. This means that restaurants are closed as well as theater and concert stages and recreational facilities. In addition, distance and hygiene rules apply. Medical masks — surgical masks or  FFP2 respirators, which also protect the wearer — must be worn in stores and on buses and trains, and simple fabric masks are no longer sufficient. No more than five adults from two households are allowed to meet. Nighttime exit restrictions also apply in some states.

Airlines want to test returnees themselves

Amid concern over the rise in Germans traveling abroad on holidays, authorities also agreed on a blanket requirement for air travelers to be tested for COVID-19 before boarding a flight to Germany. 

German airlines say they intend to carry out coronavirus tests on returnees from the popular holiday destination of Mallorca, Spain. Airlines TUI, Condor, Eurowings and Lufthansa, announced the plan to carry out tests on the island. Suitable locations are now being sought, as up to 40,000 returnees are expected at Easter. The German government recently removed Mallorca from the list of risk areas and lifted the travel warning due to a sharp drop in infection numbers. This also removed the testing and quarantine requirements for returnees —which led to a boom in bookings. .

Entry conditions from high-risk areas

Germany has instituted a new classification system that divides geographical regions into risk areas, high-incidence areas and virus variant areas. Arrivals from high-risk areas must register online at  www.einreiseanmeldung.de.

A COVID test must be done within 48 hours and an immediate ten-day quarantine is required regardless of the test result — which can be terminated with another negative test on the fifth day at the earliest. PCR, LAMP, TMA, and rapid antigen tests are accepted. Antibody tests are not accepted.

Classification into high-incidence and virus-variant areas  brings new rules. Since January 24, states that exceed an incidence value of 200 have been considered high-incidence areas. More than 20 states have already been classified as such, a large proportion of them in Europe, including Poland, Estonia, Montenegro and Hungary. 

People entering the country from high-incidence areas must present a negative test result before they can even enter the country. Only then are they allowed to board an aircraft. The same applies to buses, trains and ferries. Regardless of the test result, a ten-day mandatory quarantine period applies in Germany.

As of January 30 a transportation ban has been in effect for all flights, trains, buses and ships from countries where the new variants of the coronavirus have spread. The countries impacted by the ban include Brazil, South Africa, and parts of France and Austria. The restrictions are currently set to run until March 31.

There are several exceptions to the travel restrictions, including: people who have the right to reside in Germany and those who are transporting goods, as well as urgent medical transports and travel due to “urgent humanitarian reasons.”

 In addition, there are the quarantine rules set individually by the 16 German states. Travelers are therefore well advised to inform themselves accordingly.

Read more: FAQs for travelers to Germany during the pandemic

The Eiffel Tower in Paris, seen from under a nearby bridge

One of the world’s most recognizable landmarks, the Eiffel Tower, remains closed for the time being

France

The world’s top tourism destination country by arrivals, France has banned all travel with countries outside the European Union, due to a continuously high infection rate and new mutations of the coronavirus. Exceptions will only be made for a good reason. Complete information is available on the French Foreign Ministry website. France has reintroduced border controls until at least end of April 2021 and travelers from European countries over the age of 11 must provide proof of a negative PCR test, which must not be older than 72 hours. There are exceptions for those who live in border areas and those transporting goods. A month-long partial lockdown was reintroduced in Paris on March 20, as well as in 15 other regions in France, in an effort to get on top of rising case numbers, largely attributed to new, more infectious COVID variants. All of France is at a standstill: cultural institutions, landmarks, bars, cafes and restaurants are closed. This also applies to the popular ski resorts. Some categories of retail shops are open, but shopping centers over a certain size are closed. In general, freedom of movement in France is considerably restricted as inter-regional travel is prohibited.  Across the country, a nighttime curfew is in effect from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. People are then only allowed to leave the house with a valid reason — simple walks, shopping or sports are not included. 

United Kingdom

Palace of Westminster and Houses of Parliament in London as seen across the River Thames

A third lockdown is in effect across the United Kingdom to curb the spread of the new coronavirus variant

Great Britain has tightened its entry requirements: In order to prevent the spread of new coronavirus variants, the UK as of February 15 is obliging entrants from more than 33 countries on its”red list” of high-risk countries to quarantine in hotels for ten days. The countries affected are those classified by Great Britain as virus-variant areas, such as South Africa, all South American states, and the United Arab Emirates. The arrivals must book a 10-day stay from an approved list of hotels where they have to remain in their room and are provided with three meals a day. Security teams at the hotels monitor compliance. Passengers have to pay for their own stay in isolation.

Travel for tourist purposes is not permitted in and to Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In principle, people travelling to the UK must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test (PCR, LAMP or antigen test) before setting off. This may be taken up to three days before their journey begins. This regulation applies to EnglandNorthern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. All travelers entering the UK, regardless of departure country or nationality, must complete a passenger locator form.

A third lockdown is in effect across the UK, which is to be gradually eased in stages so that by June 21 it should be lifted completely. In England, people are not allowed to leave their area without a valid reason. Schools and universities are beginning to reopen. All businesses not considered essential remain closed. Accordingly, 56 million UK residents  are only allowed to leave their homes in justifiable cases, for example to go to work, go shopping or for medical appointments. Throughout the UK, there are hefty fines for violations of the current coronavirus rules: Failure to comply with the quarantine regulations, for example, could result in fines of up to ₤10,000 (€11,000; $13,330). 

Italy 

Deserted tables in Veneice, Italy

Italy has extended its state of emergency until the end of April

The country has extended its state of emergency until April 30, and entry from abroad remains heavily restricted. Complete information is available at the Italian Foreign Ministry website. Entry from most of Europe is allowed but persons arriving from these countries must report to the local health authorities on arrival and provide a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 48 hours. They are also required to fill in a self-declaration form. Arrivals from the United Kingdom (other than Italian residents) are banned indefinitely, and nobody (other than Italian residents) who has been in or transited through Brazil in the last 14 days may enter Italy. In addition, flights to and from Brazil have been banned.

Italy is seeing a new spike in infections and has therefore placed the country under a lockdown again. Schools, shops and restaurants are shut in more than half of Italy, including the two most populous regions containing Rome and Milan. Residents are required to stay at home except for work, for essential errands or health reasons. The extra restrictions will last until Easter, and over the Easter weekend (April 3-5) the whole country will be turned into a high-risk “red zone”, meaning there will be a total shutdown.    

Italy Rome | Colosseum

The Colosseum in Rome was only able to open for a few weeks before having to close again in line with the lockdown

Italy uses a traffic light system to its lockdown rules. Red is the zone with the highest risk of infection and white is the lowest. Currently classified as orange zones — the category for medium risk of infection — are Abruzzo, Basilicata, Calabria, Liguria, Molise, Bolzano, Tuscany, Umbria, the Aosta Valley and the islands of Sicily and Sardinia.  

Italy has 21 regions and none are currently in yellow with a low risk of infection. Until the end of March, there is a ban on crossing regional borders within the country. And a daily curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. remains in effect for all of Italy. 

The opening of the country’s ski resorts, which was scheduled for February 15, and then postponed several times, is now effectively cancelled.

Spain

Spain, Ibiza a bay with yachts

Drastic measure: tourists are not allowed to go to Ibiza

 

The country permits unrestricted entry from the EU, the Schengen Area and a small list of third countries, but has suspended incoming flights from Great Britain since December 22. The country’s official tourism website 

provides complete information and resources.  On February 4, Spain introduced restrictions on inbound flights from Brazil and South Africa in a bid to stop the spread of new strains of the coronavirus detected in those countries. The measure will last at least until March 30. 

Spain has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic.  A state of alert and an overnight nationwide curfew is in effect throughout the country until May 9, although precise restrictions vary in each of the country’s 17 autonomous communities (regions). As a result, different rules apply throughout the country. Restaurants are mostly allowed to either sell only outside or serve only outside. Many health clubs are closed, and theaters, concert halls and movie theaters are allowed to occupy only a fraction of their seats, if at all. Individual coronavirus hotspots are completely sealed off.

Find more information here.

People skiing down the slopes of the winter resort of Silvretta Arena, Ischgl, Austria

In March 2020, the Austrian winter sports resort of Ischgl became the coronavirus infection hotspot in Europe

Recent travel restrictions in selected countries across the EU

Austria

Austria has tightened border controls with all neighboring countries to contain the spread of the virus. Every traveler trying to cross the border has to present a negative coronavirus test; there will no longer be exceptions. In general, digital registration has been mandatory since January 15, with the exception of regular commuters and transit travelers.

The German government on February 11 declared the state of Tyrol a virus variant area and imposed an entry ban starting February 14. Moreover, beginning on February 12, Austria only allows departure from Tyrol upon presentation of a negative test result. Those who fail to do so face a fine of up to €1,450. The outbreak of the South African variant in Tyrol is one of the most extensive ones within the EU.

Austria is easing its coronavirus restrictions domestically, with schools, museums and stores reopening. Visitors and customers must wear medical masks, and a negative COVID-19 test is required for visits to hairdressers. Meetings of people from more than two households are also allowed again. The nighttime curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. remains unchanged.

The Alpine country made headlines with the opening of its ski slopes on December 24. The images of people queuing at the lifts and crowded slopes triggered a wave of indignation. However, due to the quarantine rules for arrivals, the winter sports activities are mainly aimed at locals, who are urged to wear facemasks when queuing at the cable cars and lifts and to maintain social distancing.

Find more information here.

The Netherlands

The Dutch government “strongly advises” against all travel to the country unless it is strictly necessary, and has stepped up travel restrictions as of January 23. From this date on, people traveling to the Netherlands not only need a negative result of a PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival in Holland, but now also need a negative result of an antigen rapid test, or LAMP (loop mediated isothermal amplification) test taken within 4 hours before departure to the Netherlands. Furthermore, all travelers are expected to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival in Holland. After five days of quarantine, you can choose to get tested for coronavirus. If you test negative, the quarantine is lifted.

Find more information here .

A nationwide curfew from 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. is in effect in the Netherlands until at least March 15. The introduction of the curfew led to violent riots shortly after it came into force. The sale of alcohol and soft drugs is also banned in the Netherlands between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., as is their consumption in public. Coffee shops have to close at 8 p.m.  Schools, most stores and restaurants are closed. Private contacts are limited to one person outside one’s household.

Faced with dramatically rising infection numbers, the Netherlands has imposed the toughest lockdown yet on its country since the pandemic began, extending it until March 31. Cinemas, theaters and museums are closed; only stores for daily needs are open.

Belgium, Bruegge, cityscape with canals

Belgium is trying to stop the rise of infections by controlling travel into the country

Belgium

Until at least April 1, people traveling to and from Belgium will have to provide a valid reason — such as family duties, work or studies — to be allowed to cross Belgian borders.

Also since the end of January all Belgians returning from Britain, South America or South Africa have been required to quarantine for 10 days and take a PCR test on the first and seventh day after arrival. Additionally, non-residents who wish to come to Belgium will have to present two negative PCR tests, one before departure and one upon arrival.

Currently citizens and residents returning to Belgium must take a COVID-19 test on arrival, self-isolate for a week and then take another test. All other arriving passengers also need to show a negative test.

Find more information here

Portugal 

People walking along the beach of Praia da Luz, Algarve, Portugal

Portugal’s Algarve region, a popular tourist destination, has been declared a no longer a COVID-19 risk area

Portugal has been particularly hard hit by COVID-19 and has for now banned foreign travel and closed its national borders in order to contain the pandemic. At the land border with Spain — as was the case in the spring of 2020 — controls have been reintroduced. At ports and airports, checks have also been tightened. Exceptions apply to people traveling to work, returning to their primary residence or traveling on business, for the transport of goods, and for medical emergencies or humanitarian aid. The Portuguese government has said that it hopes to welcome tourists from May 17 onwards who have been vaccinated, are immune or have had a negative PCR test.

Portugal has been under a state of emergency since November 9, 2020. The situation is reassessed every 15 days and appropriate measures are taken. Currently people are only allowed to leave the house for a valid reason. Restaurants and stores — except for those supplying food and basic daily needs — must remain closed. Face masks must be worn in public and social distancing and extra hygiene measures are in force in all public settings. Similar measures have been adopted in the archipelago regions of Azores and Madeira.

Find more information here

Greece 

Greece, Crete, the Elafonisi beach with its clear waters and white sands

Empty perfect beaches: Greece is not expecting tourists again until the summer

Entry requirements to Greece have been tightened: online registration is mandatory and a negative PCR test no more than 72 hours old must be available. All persons entering Greece by April 5, 2021, must undergo a seven-day domestic quarantine.

The Greek government has ordered a lockdown for the entire country, which has been extended until the end of March. Greece is being divided into yellow and red areas according to the infection rates which can be adjusted at short notice. Measures such as the general curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. (on weekends from 7 p.m.) may vary in red areas. As a result of the lockdown, travelling by boat, train, bus, or airplane across the country is also prohibited until further notice.Visit Greece provides a summary of all the important information. In general, during the day people are currently only allowed to leave their homes for a valid reason. All nonessential shops in Greece remain closed until the end of the month. Masks are mandatory throughout the country, including outdoors. Greece will also be distributing free do-it-yourself COVID-19 tests in April due to stubbornly high levels of new infections, authorities say.

Find more information here

Ireland 

Irland Giant's Causeway

Ireland is considered a high-risk area due to the increase in the number of COVID infections

The situation in Ireland was particularly dramatic at the beginning of the year. For a time, the Republic had the highest number of new infections per capita in the world. After a temporary easing of the nationwide lockdown before Christmas, the infection figures there, fueled by the highly contagious COVID-19 variant, rose unchecked. In the meantime, the situation has eased but the infection rates remain at a high level and severe restrictions remain in place.

Ireland is currently under a national lockdown. The Irish government advises against all but essential travel. Anyone entering Ireland must present a negative PCR test no more than 72 hours old. In addition, all entrants, including Irish citizens and residents, are required to severely restrict their movements for 14 days after entry. Public transport capacity is reduced to 25%, and at peak times, use of public transport is reserved for essential workers. Travel outside a five-kilometer radius of residence and between counties is to be avoided. The wearing of masks is compulsory in stores and on public transport, with fines of up to €2,500 for non-compliance.

Find more information here .

 

About Bertha J. Weiner

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