COVID-19: Borders are opening, with restrictions still in place
As of 1 July 2020, the European Commission advises EU and Schengen member states to progressively re-open their borders to residents of certain third countries through a new portal “Re-open EU”.
These measures are subject to reciprocity and apply to the residents of the following countries: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay, and China. The list of third countries will be reviewed every two weeks and updated as needed.
Nevertheless, the opening of the EU’s internal and external borders does not come without any restrictions. Member states’ authorities have the freedom to impose national health safety measures for their respective country. Out of the EU and Schengen Member states, 13 countries allow free travel without restrictions. In contrast, 16 others impose certain limitations, such as mandator or voluntary quarantine. Moreover, some member states differentiate their entry conditions based on the infection rate of other countries.
In terms of measures, most countries still impose a quarantine for travellers who have recently visited a country deemed epidemiologically unsafe – if they cannot provide a recent negative PCR COVID-19 test.
The limit for a country to be considered unsafe is an infection rate of more than 25 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people. Based on these criteria, the countries that are most often subject to stricter entry rules are Sweden and the UK. Still, several countries also restrict access to residents/travellers coming from Belgium, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Romania.
A slightly different approach comes from Greece, a country which tests visitors upon entry. All visitors are required to submit a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) up to 48 hours before travelling.
As a submission confirmation, the visitors will receive a QR code which will be scanned upon arrival, indicating whether they need to direct themselves to the COVID-19 testing area or towards the exit. Visitors being tested must self-isolate at their final destination declared on their PLF for 24 hours until the result of the test is available. In case of a positive result, the visitor will be isolated for further 14 days in one of the dedicated quarantine hotels across the country.
European institutions and the national authorities of the EU and Schengen member states are continuously evaluating the evolving situation and working together on the re-opening of borders. We strongly advise operators to get in touch with local authorities of the destination countries for the latest applicable restrictions.