Travel continues to get easier to many countries in Europe that attract American visitors– including study abroad students–making it hard to think back to where we were just about a year ago. At this time last year, global travel was still severely disrupted due to the emergence of the COVID-19 virus, the subsequent declaration of a global pandemic, and the gradual implementation of international travel restrictions by nearly every country.
Throughout the Summer of 2020, Europe began to lift some travel restrictions, only to reimpose them when the second wave of COVID hit in August. By the end of the summer, while many organizations were eager to, it seemed many were instead setting their sights on a brighter travel outlook for 2021.
However, Spring of 2021 proved to be a turning point for most of Europe. On 19 May, the European Commission announced that travel restrictions would be eased for vaccinated travelers from a list of approved countries. Representatives had yet to announce which countries would be included in this list, and each member state had the right to maintain its own travel restrictions.
Then, in April, the Greek Minister of Tourism declared that vaccinated travelers from the United States and certain other countries would be welcomed into the country by 14 May. At the time of the announcement, many remained skeptical, but the timeline was then moved to the end of April and U.S. travelers have indeed been able to visit Greece for the past four months. On 16 May, Italy–which had already been allowing vaccinated travelers from multiple countries–opened its border to U.S. travelers who arrived on Delta COVID-tested flights and have since allowed travelers from European Union-approved countries (including the U.S.) on any flight.
While most countries (such as France and Spain) who had already announced entry dates followed through with their proposed reopening, other countries were more reluctant (such as Germany, Finland, The Netherlands and Sweden). The United Kingdom, which currently operates international travel on a “traffic light” system based on green, amber, and red-light countries, was one of the last European nations to allow visitors. Most countries in Europe are currently in “amber-light” status (the U.S. included), which previously required a 10-day quarantine. However, on 2 August, the protocols for all vaccinated travelers from amber light status countries changed, effectively removing the 10-day quarantine requirement.
As popular European travel destinations opened over this summer, outdoor historical sites, parks, and beaches were the primary attractions promoted by host nations. While some restaurants, pubs, and shops reopened throughout various countries, they have mostly operated in a restricted capacity. Most shops are only allowed a set number of customers at a time, and most restaurants and pubs have indoor table restrictions. While the requirements for masks in outdoor settings have generally been easing, the Delta variant of COVID-19 has caused some countries to implement some additional protocols. So far, these protocols have not banned non-EU travelers from arriving, but have been focused on social distancing and mask-wearing restrictions, as well as the introduction of health passes which display proof of vaccination for entry into most establishments.
While vaccinated travelers were allowed into some EU countries at the beginning of this summer, the concept of a vaccination passport was expected to come to fruition. The European Commission had reportedly been discussing the logistics of a vaccination certificate with the U.S. since April. No evidence has surfaced regarding what this may look like for U.S. citizens; however, EU member states have since developed a “Covid Pass,” which was originally intended to facilitate travel throughout Europe, but has recently evolved into an entry requirement for most public venues. While the European Commission is still working through the logistics of integrating non-EU citizens into the Covid-Pass system, most European countries are currently accepting international vaccine certificates as proof of vaccination, provided they are European Union-approved vaccines such as Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson.
While the COVID-19 situation remains fluid, several European countries have proven their ability to reopen their doors to travelers if proper measures are taken. Europe is eager to end travel restrictions and the trends moving into the Fall of 2021 indicate that it is a real possibility. Those considering travel to Europe this Fall would benefit from an expert perspective on the current travel risk landscape—and On Call’s Travel Restart & Location Monitoring Program can help. Whether you’re looking for a standard solution to apply to specific locations of interest, or a customized option that includes location monitoring and regular updates, On Call can help you create and implement a strategy that is aligned with your organization’s unique needs. Contact us today to learn more.
For over 25 years, On Call International has provided fully-customized travel risk management and global assistance services protecting millions of travelers, their families, and their organizations. Contact us today and watch our video to learn more. You can also stay in touch with On Call’s in-house risk management, travel health and security experts by signing up for our quarterly Travel Risk Management (TRM) newsletter.
*The information provided within this post has been compiled from a multitude of available sources, and is based on the current news and situational analysis at the time of writing.*