May 20, 2021 10:49:43 am
The European Union on Wednesday agreed to reopen its borders to fully vaccinated travelers, including Americans, and people from a list of COVID-safe countries that will be determined later this week ahead of the summer tourism season.
Visitors from outside the bloc who have received EU-approved vaccines — including those from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — will be allowed to enter European Union countries without having to take a test or quarantine upon arrival.
The new measures could go into effect as early as next week, after EU leaders give formal approval and individual countries set up systems to check vaccination status. While the EU aims to take a coordinated approach to travel this summer, member states will be allowed to set their own requirements for travelers from individual countries based on their own epidemiological criteria.
Some European countries are already allowing in American travelers with vaccine or testing requirements. Here is a guide to six of the continent’s most popular tourist destinations, explaining what is required for entry and what to expect if you do visit. — Ceylan Yeginsu
Subscriber Only Stories
State of the virus
Like other countries in Europe, Croatia experienced a third wave that appears to have peaked in April. Since then, daily cases have steadily decreased. Croatia’s Institute of Public Health tracks cases on this website but doesn’t provide figures on deaths. According to World Health Organization data, from May 10 to May 16 Croatia had 239 COVID-related deaths (daily average: 34) and 5,896 new cases (daily average: 842). About 31% of adults in Croatia have had at least one vaccine dose while nearly 10% have been fully vaccinated, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Unlike some other European countries, Croatia makes no distinction between tourists and other travelers, applying the same conditions for leisure travel, essential family and business. Visitors from the European countries on the ECDC’s so-called green list (which varies constantly) can travel without restrictions. Those coming from European countries not on the green list must provide one of the following: a negative COVID test, proof of vaccination or a certificate of recovery. Finally, visitors from outside Europe must provide the same evidence (either a negative COVID test, a vaccination certificate or a certificate of recovery) and provide evidence of accommodations paid in advance or proof that they own property in Croatia, according to the government website. Travelers are advised to fill out the Enter Croatia form to speed up the process.
Currently, no direct flights operate between Croatia and the United States, but United Airlines and Delta Air Lines will launch seasonal direct flights from Newark Liberty International Airport and Kennedy International Airport in July, said Ina Rodin, an official with the Croatian National Tourist Office.
Croatia has universal health care and the quality of medical facilities are in line with European standards. Rapid antigen and PCR tests are widely available, with contact information listed on Croatia’s Institute of Public Health website. Those who develop symptoms of COVID-19 while in Croatia should contact a COVID-dedicated call center by dialing 113 or one of the designated medical facilities.
Bars and restaurants can operate but customers must be seated outside. The only indoor dining allowed is in hotels. There is a 10 p.m. curfew for shops, restaurants and other businesses. While beaches, thermal spas, parks, zoos and most museums are open, nightclubs are closed.
The general mood seems relaxed, and people seem eager to return to quasi-normal life and welcome tourists. Croatia’s economy heavily relies on tourism, accounting for almost 20% of the country’s gross domestic product according to 2018 data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
“Most people have a normal social life,” said Kresimira Kruslin, 30, a lawyer in Zagreb. “The general feeling is very optimistic. Young people feel comfortable going out for drinks and things like that,” she said. “Some people are more cautious than others, but I don’t know anyone who is scared.”
State of the virus
France’s positivity rate and case numbers have dropped steadily over the past month, thanks to the country’s accelerating vaccination campaign and a national lockdown that was announced at the end of March. As of May 17, the seven-day average for daily new confirmed cases was just over 14,000, down from more than 45,000 one month earlier. The share of tests that are positive has similarly dropped from around 10% to 4.5% over the same period. And after a slow start, the pace of the vaccination campaign has recently picked up. As of May 17, nearly 31% of the French population had received at least one dose of vaccine, and 14% were fully vaccinated. Universal adult eligibility for vaccination will open up on June 15.
President Emmanuel Macron has announced that, beginning June 9, visitors from outside Europe will once again be allowed entry into France, provided they carry a pass sanitaire (health pass), details of which have yet to be announced.
Pressure on France’s health system has eased considerably, with the number of patients in the country’s intensive care units dropping from a high of more than 6,000 on April 26 to just over 4,000 on May 18. In a move that should appeal to tourists and public health officials alike, France will make PCR tests available to all visitors free of charge this summer, France’s foreign minister, Clément Beaune, recently told an interviewer. Anyone who tests positive should isolate and call a local doctor’s office if needed; for medical emergencies, dial 15.
Nonessential stores are reopening, outdoor dining has started, and the national curfew has been pushed back from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Museums like the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay are also opening their doors, as are theaters, movie theaters and cultural sites across the country, including the Château de Versailles and the Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey. Disneyland Paris will reopen on June 17. The next easing of nationwide restrictions will come on June 9, when France’s curfew will be rolled back to 11 p.m., and limited indoor dining will be permitted. The last of the major restrictions will be lifted on June 30, when the curfew will be abolished and larger gatherings will be allowed, opening the door for the summer festival season. But even after all of the lockdown measures have been eased, visitors to France should expect to encounter mask requirements and social distancing measures, including limited capacity at museums, restaurants, stores and other establishments.
It’s been a long spring in France, and for many here, the annual grandes vacances can’t come soon enough. Restaurants just opened for outdoor dining, and people flocked to the tables, despite chilly, rainy weather in much of the country. But the prospect of summer vacations may be as important to the national economy as it is to the French spirit. The tourism industry accounts for nearly 8% of France’s gross domestic product and supports some 2 million jobs. “We need, we want, in good health conditions, to remain the top tourist destination in Europe and the world,” Beaune, the French official, said. “This is an economic issue for us.” — Paige McClanahan
State of the virus
Greece is recovering steadily from its latest coronavirus wave, which reached its peak in early April. As of May 18, the average daily case count had fallen to just over 2,000, down from a peak of more than 3,000 on April 5. Similarly, the share of coronavirus tests that are positive dropped to 4.3% on May 13 from 6.8% on April 1.
Nearly 28% of the Greek population had received at least one dose of vaccine as of May 18, while more than 16% were fully vaccinated. Those who work in the country’s tourism industry have been prioritized in the vaccine rollout, as have a number of the islands. The country’s health minister announced last week that residents of tourist-heavy islands such as Mykonos, Santorini and Corfu are next in line to receive their doses.
On arrival in Athens, travelers will need to present a certificate of vaccination, a negative coronavirus test no more than 72 hours old, or proof of recovery from COVID-19 within the past nine months. Passengers may also be subject to random rapid testing at the airport; anyone who tests positive will be put up at a local hotel for at least 10 days, along with their traveling companions, at the expense of the Greek government. Anyone planning to fly within the country will be subject to the same requirements as those arriving from abroad.
Greece’s medical facilities, which have struggled from years of underfunding, were severely strained during the recent spring COVID-19 wave, but the pressures have eased over the past few weeks. Seventy-eight percent of Greece’s intensive care beds were occupied as of May 12, down from 88% in late April, according to the Greek government’s COVID Observatory. Any visitor who tests positive while in Greece should self isolate and contact a local doctor’s office if needed; in a medical emergency, dial 166.
Life in Greece is beginning to feel normal again as the government peels away the various restrictions of the country’s months-long lockdown. Outdoor archaeological sites reopened earlier this spring, while restaurants and cafes once again began offering outdoor service (with a maximum of six people per table) on May 3. Greece’s museums have been open to all — with masks required and social distancing measures in place — since May 14. Open-air cinemas kick off their summer season on May 21, while spas, wellness centers and outdoor theaters are scheduled to reopen before the end of the month. A pared-down curfew remains in place, from 12:30 a.m. to 5 a.m. Ferry services to the islands are up and running, with limited capacity and mask requirements.
Greece jumped ahead of many of its European neighbors in opening up to vaccinated or COVID-negative tourists from the United States and a handful of other countries. The tourism industry accounts for roughly a quarter of total employment and more than a fifth of Greece’s gross domestic product, so restarting the industry is critical to helping the country recover from 2020, when the economy shrank by 8.2%.
“Unfortunately, after more than 10 years of economic hardship, tourism and food is our only industry,” Kostas Tzilialis, who works at a cafe and bookshop in central Athens, said recently. “We don’t produce cars or machines. So we have to open our industry right now. Let’s hope that people will be careful and the vaccines will protect us.” — Paige McClanahan
State of the virus
Italy seems to be exiting a third wave of the pandemic that appears to have peaked in March. New cases and deaths are in constant decline. From May 10 to May 16, Italy had 1,369 deaths (daily average 195) and about 50,453 new cases (daily average 7,207), according to WHO data. Hospitalizations have gone down by 49% in the past month, according to the Italian research foundation, Gimbe.
More than 17% of adults are fully vaccinated and 38% are at least partially vaccinated, according to the ECDC.
Italy makes a distinction between tourists and those traveling for other reasons, such as businesspeople or students. Visitors from Europe, Israel and Britain can visit Italy without quarantining, regardless of their reason, but need to take a coronavirus test. Visitors from the United States and other non-European countries that are considered low risk (Japan, Canada, Australia and Singapore) can also come regardless of their motivation, but need both a coronavirus test and a 10-day-quarantine. Americans avoid the quarantine if they take special “COVID-tested flights” that require taking a test both before and after the flight, and submitting an EU digital passenger locator form. These COVID-tested flights are already available from New York and Atlanta to Milan and Rome, and will soon be offered to Venice and Naples. From countries considered high risk, only travel for essential reasons (such as business, study or medical care) is allowed, and no travel is allowed from India and Brazil.
Italy has one of Europe’s best health care systems. When northern Italy was severely hit in March and April 2020, hospitals were overwhelmed but that is no longer the case. The percentage of intensive care units taken over by COVID patients is declining and is now at 23%, according to statistics compiled by Gimbe, the research foundation.
Italy regulates restrictions with a system that places each of its 20 regions on a white-yellow-orange-red scale, which can at times result in significant differences across the country. Currently most of Italy is listed as “yellow,” with minor restrictions. Bars and restaurants are open for outdoor service (indoor service will be allowed from June 1). There is currently an 11 p.m. curfew, but on June 7 the curfew will be pushed back to midnight and, if the virus continues to abate, the curfew will be repealed by the end of June. Museums and theaters are open, but at a reduced capacity. Masks are mandatory for anyone above age 6, outdoors and indoors. Theme parks will open in June.
The mood is mixed with optimism, pandemic fatigue and excitement. On May 4, Prime Minister Mario Draghi gave a speech that energized the climate: “It’s time to book your vacations in Italy, we can’t wait to welcome you again,” he said, referring to international tourists.
Those working in the tourism industry say it worked. “Draghi’s announcement energized the bookings, we saw an increase just the day after,” said Giuseppe Artolli, 62, who manages COMO Castello del Nero, a castle-turned-hotel in Chianti.
Carlo Dalla Chiesa, 43, manages Milan’s youth hostel Ostello Bello, a popular destination for young international travelers but also a place where locals go for their aperitif. Even though the hostel lost 97% of revenue during the pandemic, he said the owners feel very optimistic and now are expanding their business in Rome, Florence, Genoa and Palermo. He is convinced that youth tourism is going to boom more than “adult” tourism.
“It feels like 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell and suddenly all the young folks from East Berlin started to travel,” he said. “Just think of the kids who are 20 right now, and have spent two years in lockdowns, now they’re going to want to travel a lot, and on a budget.” — Anna Momigliano
State of the virus
Infections and deaths in Turkey from the coronavirus have been declining steadily following a strict three-week national lockdown, which is expected to be lifted gradually through May.
Turkey so far has fully vaccinated about 13% of its population of 83 million people; about 3 million more have received their first dose, according to Our World in Data, an online compendium of data from global sources.
While the country is currently facing a vaccine shortage, forcing it to delay the administration of second doses, the health minister, Fahrettin Koca, said 30 million more doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine would arrive in June and 50 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine are expected to arrive from Russia within six months.
Turkey has remained open to tourists, including Americans, throughout the pandemic. Most international arrivals are required to show proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of their arrival into the country.
Coronavirus tests are not required for passengers arriving from places that Turkey considers safe, which include Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Luxembourg, Ukraine and Estonia.
Passengers arriving from Brazil, South Africa and India will be required to quarantine for 14 days in government-assigned accommodations and will be released if they test negative for the virus after day 10.
Turkey offers health insurance packages starting at as little as $15 that cover foreign visitors for COVID-19 treatment and hospitalization for up to 30 days. The country treats coronavirus patients in both public and private hospitals and opened 17 new hospitals last year to provide more intensive-care capacity for COVID treatment.
Turkey’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism, and its response to the pandemic has been defined, in large part, by not cutting off its flow. The country has had a two-tiered system in place throughout the pandemic that exempts visitors from the strictest lockdown measures, including a curfew at night and on weekends that requires residents to stay at home.
Tourists are free to visit museums, beaches and other sites across the country. Hotels and resorts are open with capacity restrictions, and Turkey is prioritizing vaccinations for tourism workers.
Restaurants and cafes are limited to takeout, and retail stores and shopping malls are only open during the week. Theaters, gyms and swimming pools remain closed.
All the restrictions are expected to be lifted at the start of the all-important tourist season in June. — Ceylan Yeginsu
The United Kingdom
State of the virus
After months of stringent lockdown measures and a swift vaccine rollout, Britain’s infection rate has been trending downward since it peaked in January, and the curve of new daily cases has flattened as of April. The country is expected to lift restrictions and see a significant return to normal daily life by June 21.
More than half of Britain’s population has received one dose of a coronavirus vaccine and the government aims to offer the rest of the adult population its first shot by the end of July. So far, 31% of the population has been fully vaccinated.
England has devised a “traffic light” system for foreign visitors, which determines quarantine and testing requirements depending on case numbers and the prevalence of coronavirus variants in their home countries.
Only British and Irish nationals and those with residence rights in the United Kingdom are permitted to enter England from destinations on the red list, which includes India and Brazil. Anyone who has visited or passed through a red country within 10 days of arrival is required to get a coronavirus test 72 hours before their departure and must quarantine for 10 days in a government-designated hotel, which costs about $2,400 per person traveling alone.
The United States and most European countries are currently on England’s amber list, which requires travelers to show proof of a negative virus test taken 72 hours before departure and then self-isolate at home or at a suitable hotel for 10 days after arriving in the United Kingdom.
On day two and day eight of quarantining, travelers must take PCR tests, which cost about $300 and must be purchased in advance from British authorities. Those who want to be released from self-isolation early can take an additional test through a private provider on Day 5, at a cost of about $200, but they still must take the final test on Day 8. (The cost of tests may vary when entering Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.)
Visitors from countries on England’s green list — there are currently 12, including Portugal, Australia and New Zealand — are exempt from quarantine but are required to take a PCR test before departure and two days after arrival.
The National Health Service contact tracing department carries out regular spot checks by phone and in person to ensure that passengers are complying with quarantine rules. Those found breaking them could face fines of up to $14,000 and jail time.
The traffic light system will be reviewed every three weeks with the possibility for countries to move up or down depending on how well they are containing the pandemic.
Foreign citizens visiting Britain have free access to National Health Service coronavirus testing and treatment, including hospitalization if it is required.
Pubs, restaurants, theaters, museums, stores and hotels have reopened over the last three weeks, although capacity restrictions and social distancing measures still apply. While outside, most people do not wear masks, but indoors they are still expected to do so unless eating or drinking in a restaurant.
Across major cities such as London, Manchester, Brighton and Edinburgh, restaurants and bars are buzzing with people reuniting with friends and family and enjoying their newfound freedom after months of lockdown. Demand in coastal destinations like Cornwall and Dorset has soared in recent weeks as the weather warms and Britons book domestic beach vacations.
If coronavirus cases and deaths remain low in England and a new surge of the Indian variant is contained, the government aims to lift remaining coronavirus restrictions by June 21, including those on nightclubs and large events such as festivals. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are following separate but similar timetables. — Ceylan Yeginsu
📣 Join our Telegram channel (The Indian Express) for the latest news and updates
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.