Can I Still Travel to Europe? Your Virus Restriction Questions, Answered
Europe’s winter travel season was hailed as the perfect return to Europe’s winter travel season, with its glittering Christmas markets and mold wine flowing through the air, skiers skiing on icy slopes, and opera performances welcoming individual audiences in grand theaters.
But then came the deadly fourth wave of coronavirus cases, which led to new rounds of curfews and lockdowns in many European countries (and in Austria, vaccination orders for most of the country’s population). The crackdown has sparked violent protests across the continent, with thousands of protesters arguing that the requirement violates their fundamental freedoms. Now many Christmas markets have been canceled, some winter resorts are closed and performance halls are closed. The rapidly changing landscape has again made it difficult to plan for Europe. Here’s what we know about the latest restrictions.
Can I still go to Europe?
It depends on where you want to travel. While the European Union has published general guidelines for travel in the bloc, each of the 27 member states has set its own entry requirements.
Most European countries allow vaccinated Americans to visit, but some – like Austria – re-impose restrictions on unnecessary travel. The Times keeps an updated list of countries where Americans can currently visit with details of specific entry rules.
Through guidelines and warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the State Department, the United States advises against traveling to certain European countries, including Austria, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Greece, Norway, Ireland, and the Czech Republic.
Which countries have re-imposed sanctions?
Austria has taken the toughest route so far, becoming the first Western country to re-impose a nationwide lockdown on Monday, allowing people to leave their homes just to go to work or to buy essential items such as groceries and medicine.
The shutdown will last at least 10 days and could be extended to 13 December, the Austrian government said. During this period, leisure travel to Austria is banned and tourist attractions, including Christmas markets, museums and cinemas, are closed. Tourists who cannot already reschedule their flight in the country will be allowed to stay in the hotel but lockdown rules must be followed.
On Friday, Germany warned that it could take drastic action if cases of coronavirus continue to rise, indicating that those who have been vaccinated may also face lockdown. Christmas markets have been canceled in Saxony and Bavaria, bars and clubs are closed, and restaurants are closed for hours.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia, which have reported some of the highest infection rates in Europe, have banned non-vaccinated people from restaurants, hotels, bars and hairdressers, even if their coronavirus test is negative.
The Netherlands returned to partial lockdown on November 13 for at least three weeks, with restaurants and shops closing early and spectators barred from sporting events. The Dutch government is looking for ways to ban unvaccinated people from their homes, which has fueled riots and protests across the country.
Ireland also re-imposed a curfew this week, requiring bars and clubs to close at midnight.
Do I need a booster shot?
Most European countries do not require a booster for entry, but some nations have set vaccine “expiration dates” for travelers.
Croatia, Austria and Switzerland are all required to receive a second dose of the vaccine or booster shots within one year of entering the country. In Austria, the validity period of a single dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 270 days or about nine months.
From December 15, the French government requires all people aged 65 and over who want to enter indoor locations, such as restaurants, museums and theaters, to receive a booster shot six months and five weeks after their second dose.
Do I need a digital health pass?
Most European countries accept the CDC’s White Paper Vaccination Card and other digital health certificates used in the United States, such as the Smart Health Card or Healthpass by Clear.
In some places, such as Switzerland and Belgium, tourists are required to apply for a local health pass to enter indoor locations, such as restaurants and museums. In Switzerland, all visitors must apply for a pass before arrival, and the process can take up to seven days. In Belgium, tourists over the age of 16 must apply for a “Covid Safe Ticket” to enter cultural sites and bars and restaurants.
In other destinations like France, local digital passes are optional for international visitors and can be obtained from some local pharmacies.
How will the latest wave affect the ski season?
While Austria has closed ski resorts for a period of lockdown, the ski season is underway in the rest of Europe.
Last week, ski resorts in France and Italy reopened, requiring all skiers over the age of 12 to show evidence of a negative coronavirus test to be vaccinated, recover from a Covid-19 infection, or enter a ski lift. (At the onset of the epidemic, many popular ski destinations, such as Eschgel in Austria, became virus hot spots as they brought large groups together in a limited space such as ski lifts, chalets and restaurants.)
Switzerland has also opened its doors for the season and visitors are required to submit coronavirus health certificates for resort bars and restaurants.
Can I travel through the airports of the countries in the lockdown?
There are currently no restrictions on passengers traveling to other countries via European airports. During the Austrian lockdown, passengers traveling through the country are not allowed to leave the airport area.
Should I worry about protests?
Large protests erupted across Europe last weekend over the return of the Covid-19 sanctions. Thousands marched in European cities, including Vienna, Amsterdam, Belgium and Rome, and clashed with police.
Demonstrations in the Dutch city of Rotterdam were particularly violent, with large groups hurling stones and firecrackers at officials, prompting police to retaliate with gunfire. In Brussels, police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse a crowd.
Sporadic, small-scale demonstrations continued throughout the week. It is best to check the local news site for any planned protests before leaving.
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