Following discussions amongst leaders of EU countries, several nations have moved to strengthen travel restrictions and add further rules for entry in an effort to combat further spread of Covid-19. Countries such as Belgium, Portugal, Finland and France are among those that have made changes recently, reacting to the new strains found in the UK, South Africa and Brazil.
Here’s a closer look at the discussions the leaders had, the changes in each of the countries, and how they are bound to affect travel in Europe.
EU Leaders Discussions – What Was Said About Travel?
As cases of the more-transmissible virus strains continue to be found all over Europe, concern amongst the EU leaders is growing, leading to discussions between the leaders taking place over the past few days. The leaders discussed different measures that could be taken to stem the tide of the spread in Europe.
The European leaders came to the agreement that non-essential travel should be strongly discouraged between member states but that borders should be kept open, hoping to avoid a repeat of the scenes that occurred in spring last year when several European nations abruptly closed their borders, causing a multitude of problems.
A proposal to introduce “dark red zones” – areas with high infection rates – was discussed by the leaders. Travelers would be discouraged from traveling to these areas, and those traveling from a dark red zone would be required to both take a Covid-19 test prior to their departure and to isolate once they have reached their destination. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that the commission would make precise recommendations in the coming days.
EU States’ New Restrictions – Information For Travelers
Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander de Croo has announced that all non-essential travel is to be banned from Wednesday. The ban will last until March 1st, and will apply to land, sea and air travel, with exceptions made for cross-border workers and those with health or family-relation reasons for traveling.
From Monday, Belgians returning from the UK, South Africa or South America – the regions where new virus variants originated – will need to quarantine for ten days, having PCR tests on the first and seventh days. Travelers attempting to visit Belgium will need to take a PCR test before departure and again upon arrival into the country.
Portugal is to suspend flights from the UK from Saturday 23rd January, to stem further spread of the UK variant. The UK variant currently accounts for 20% of all new cases in Portugal and, with the country posting a new daily case record this week, there have been calls to cancel the upcoming election and close schools and universities.
France has mandated the need for a negative PCR test 72 hours prior to departure for all travelers, with exceptions for those on essential travel. The new ruling is only for air and sea arrivals, with land arrivals allowed to enter without a test beforehand.
Finland has appealed to its citizens not to leave the country unless absolutely necessary, stopping short of a ban as freedom of movement is a constitutional right in the country. Entry into Finland has been further restricted, with only essential workers able to enter from Wednesday. Finland has reported 41,915 cases of the virus, with 644 deaths, and currently has a 7-day average of 286 cases.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories