Lifestyle & Culture

Jackie Harding: Nations across Europe adopting vaccine passports, dropping quarantines (updated)

(Editor’s note: This list of travel rules and vaccine passports will be updated. This post contains information curated from official national websites, CNN, the Evening Standard, the Guardian, the Voice of America and Forbes. Terry Boyd also contributed to this post.)

They’re key to a return to travel normal, keeping businesses such as restaurants and bars open … and countries across Europe are embracing them, though the United Kingdom sees them as a restraint on citizens’ rights to go about their daily business.

On 18 March, the European Union launched an effort to create the “Digital Green Certificate” vaccine passport for internal European travel, a passport that restored freedom of travel to is 450 million residents effective 1 July. The Green Pass includes non-EU members Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland. In late May, EU officials agreed in principle on rules enabling its 450 million population to travel freely throughout all 27 member states by the end of June.

Digital vaccine passports already are in use in Israel, where QR codes allow fully vaccinated people access to gyms or restaurants.

More and more nations, desperate to reignite their declining tourism sectors, are allowing travellers to enter the country without quarantining, provided they have proof of vaccination from their home countries. To qualify for entry, the traveller must have completed the vaccination course at least two weeks before travel.

Austria and Greece both pushed the EU to embrace the passports in order to restart leisure travel.

French and German officials were initially skeptical because of issues related to discrimination against people who can’t – or won’t – get vaccinated. But on 25 February, German Chancellor Angela Merkel signed on at a virtual summit, saying, “Everyone agreed that we need a digital vaccination certificate.”

Has there been pushback from anti-vaxxers? Oh, yeah. Demonstrations opposing the passes as discriminatory are a weekly event in France, Italy and other countries. But as the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus spreads, countries are rushing ahead with vaccine passports as the only way to avoid a repeat of pandemic travel restrictions, business closures and lockdowns.

In mid-May, Dubai’s airport – the busiest international travel hub in the world – said he believes vaccine passports are the only way to get the world moving again. “I don’t think there is an alternative,” Dubai Airports chief executive Paul Griffiths told the BBC.

Many countries have already started their own passport efforts, keen to start a vaccination passport scheme both at home and globally with our without the EU. Greece and Israel plan to allow vaccinated people to travel freely between the two countries once international flights resume.While there are still no international registries, standards or protocols for vaccine passports, digital or otherwise, a number of entities are working to change that.

The Common Project and the World Economic Forum are working on a CommonPass framework. You can see the details here.

For the moment, many countries will still require travellers to have a PCR test both 72 hours before travel and upon arrival.

The vaccination certificate must be in English or the language of the country being visited, and contain information about:

• where the vaccine was administered

• which vaccine was given

• the issuer of the vaccine

• the batch number

Most countries require travelers have both doses before entry.

Of course, for the time being, travelers from countries with high infection rates may not be welcome even with proof of vaccination.

Check the official government website before you travel.

We’ve put together lists aggregated from media outlets including information from the official country travel websites.

These countries have, or recognize, vaccine passports:

Austria: Austria introduced its vaccine passport in April. The card is for vaccinated people as well as those who have recovered from the virus and who have tested negative. The Austrians call it the 3G rules – Geimpft (vaccinated), Getestet (tested) and Genesen (recovered.) Enforcement varies from establishment to establishment.

Here’s the official government website. About 60 percent of Austrians are vaccinated against COVID-19.

Belgium: As the HQ for the EU, Belgium has signed on to the EU vaccine passport initiative. The EU Digital COVID-19 Vaccination Passport, which can be issued in paper and digital format, contains a QR code alongside other detailed information indicating whether the traveller has been vaccinated, tested for COVID-19 or recently recovered the virus. As of 1 October, you’ll need a vaccine passport to enter bars and restaurants, according to Politico EU. About 75 percent of Belgians have been vaccinated.

Denmark: On 28 May, Denmark officials debuted their digital coronavirus passport, providing entrée into all businesses and public places. As of 1 July, Danes are allowed to travel to the rest of the European Union. Now the vaccination rate is so high in Denmark at 75 percent-plus that the country has suspended requirements for a vaccination passport to enter restaurants, cafés, sports arenas, salons and other gathering spots. You don’t even have to wear a mask on public transportation. Denmark is on pace to reach 90-percent population vaccination by 1 October.

Denmark is suspending quarantine requirements for Americans who have proof of vaccination.

Earlier this year, Sky News reported the company that developed Denmark’s vaccine passport app is predicting it will cause a “domino effect,” with every country in Europe rolling one out. The app uses data to verify the user has either been vaccinated, or had a negative COVID test. Everywhere people gather, from airports to music festivals, can instantly verify this information, according to the app maker Netcompany. Denmark was the first company to authorize a digital vaccine passport and is using them domestically to allow non-essential businesses to reopen.

See the video above for details, and the digital passport is in use now.

As of September 2021

Estonia: Estonian officials are working with the World Health Organization to create standardized electronic vaccination certification that could become the “gold standard” on the way to global adoption of vaccine passports, according to the Voice of America. You need a vaccine passport when entering the country. You can see all requirements here on the official website. Only about 56 percent of Estonians have been vaccinated.

France: France was the first EU member to trial its own covid passport, the TousAntiCovid app. On 27 July, the Macron government mandated TousAntiCovid app vaccine passes for entry into restaurants, tourist attractions and events. And the predictable demonstrations followed. Wired has a great deep-dive into how the French went from vaccine skeptics to one of the most vaccinated populations on the planet at about 75 percent.

A vaccine passport is mandatory for people entering cinemas, museums, restaurants and bars, and for long-distance public transport.

Germany: Germany introduced its covid pass on 10 June. The CovPass is a smartphone app giving Germans access to restaurants, museums or other venues that require proof of vaccination. German officials are warning that if infection rates don’t drop, restrictions for unvaccinated people may coming, according to the the Associated Press. Germany is using the same 3G rules – Geimpft (vaccinated), Getestet (tested) and Genesen (recovered) – as Austria. And the protests have begun. Germany is approaching 70 percent of its population vaccinated.

Greece, Cyprus and Israel: In mid-February, the group agreed to allow each country’s citizens with COVID-19 vaccination certificates to travel without restrictions between the three countries, according to the Guardian. The agreement went into effect 1 April and on 16 July, Greece implemented requirements for entrance into indoor restaurants, nightclubs, bars and cinemas.

Greece and pretty much everyone: Greece is negotiated bilateral and reciprocal travel agreements with at least 10 countries including the United States, Canada, Australia, Serbia, Russia, Ukraine, China, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. About 60 percent of Greeks are vaccinated as of mid-September.

Iceland: In January, Iceland became the first country in Europe to issue COVID-19 vaccination certificates and accept them when other countries adopt the policy. Iceland was projected to have vaccinated most of its 357,000 citizens by mid-Summer. Iceland also recognizes certificate issued by the European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organisation.

At least 80 percent of people in Iceland are vaccinated.

Republic of Ireland: The Republic is introducing the EU Green Pass. And it may or may not be required for indoor dining as Ireland plans to drop most COVID-19 restrictions as of 22 October. You can see the official rules here. About 76 percent of people in Ireland are vaccinated.

Israel: Israel was among the first countries to adopt a vaccine passport, instituting its plan on 21 February. Both vaccinated Israelis and those who can prove they’ve had COVID-19 can download a new app, according to MIT Technology. The post makes clear that it’s not altogether clear how Israel will use the passport. But the Israelis are already drawing up multilateral agreements with other countries including Greece to use the passport to enter on vacation or for business. But only about 67 percent of Israelis are vaccinated. Israeli officials announced in September that they will join the EU’s Green Pass program.

Italy: A Green Pass is required as of 6 August in Italy for indoor dining, sporting events and cultural events. You can see details here. As of 15 October, all employees – public and private – must get vaccinated, according to multiple news outlets. Our Dispatches personnel in Italy report that officials on trains and at hotels and museums checked. their vaccine passport, and museums have instituted temperature checks. So the Italians are getting serious.

About 75 percent of Italians have gotten at least the first shot.

Netherlands: As of 22 September, the Netherlands is dropping all quarantine requirements for visitors who have been vaccinated and who have the vaccine passport to prove it. That includes Americans. Everyone will need those vaccine passports to enter restaurants, café and other public gathering spots.

Here’s the official checklist for travelers arriving in the Netherlands. Only about 65 percent of people in the Netherlands are vaccinated.

Norway: Norwegian officials joined the EU vaccine passport program on 24 June, allowing holders to enter the country restriction free. But Norway has restrictions on travelers from Ukraine and some parts of the Balkans including Kosovo and Macedonia.

Here’s the official vaccine passport page. About 76 percent of people in Norway are immunized.

Portugal: In July, Portugal began requiring proof of vaccination or a valid, current COVID test when guests check into hotels, according to Reuters. You also need them to eat indoors at restaurants in Lisbon, Porto and other larger cities on Friday evenings and during the weekend. But British travelers to Portugal need only show a recent negative PCR test to enter the country, according to the BBC. Portugal has Europe’s highest percentages of population immunization at 86 percent.

Spain: In July, the Galicia region became the first Spanish territory to require its citizens to show proof of their Covid health status to gain access to indoor cafés, bars and restaurants. Also in July, the Canary government made vaccine passport a requirement for cafés, bars and restaurants on the island of Tenerife. Spain has immunized about 80 percent of its people.

Sweden: Sweden has a digital vaccine passport in place. You can see details here. About 70 percent of people in Sweden are immunized. Here’s all the official info on getting the passport.

Switzerland: In June, Switzerland had hammered out the legal framework to join the EU’s vaccine passport scheme with its own document. Switzerland has distributed COVID-19 certificates to people who have been vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from infection as a way to open travel with the rest of Europe. They’re required to for indoor dining and events. BUT, as of mid-September, Switzerland does not honor vaccine passports for outside the EU/EEC, requiring those visitors to test every three days.

About 62 percent of people in Switzerland are vaccinated.

United Kingdom: After Brexit, the UK has gone its own way and that includes vaccine passports. Though the Johnson government had announced they would be required to enter nightclubs and large events, they ditched the idea in September. Health Minister Sajid Javid told the BBC that the UK shouldn’t be requiring vaccine passports just because those silly Europeans are doing it.

Though not a formal vaccine passport program, the United Kingdom’s existing National Health Service app now doubles as a “vaccine passport” for fully vaccinated residents, according to Forbes. About 75 percent of UK citizens are vaccinated as of mid-September. But with the NHS app, initially only residents of England and Wales 13 years old and older will be able to use the vaccine verification feature.

You can see more details here on the official UK website. About 73 percent of Brits are vaccinated.

These countries allow entry without a quarantine with proof of vaccination:

Most EU countries allow EU citizens to enter with either a negative COVID-19 test or proof of a vaccination.

Croatia: Fully vaccinated travelers can enter without quarantine, as can those with negative COVID-19 tests or proof of a past infection.

Cyprus: In December, Cyprus became the first country to allow travelers who’ve been fully vaccinated to enter without having to go into quarantine, according to CNN. As of March 1, EU citizens can enter Cyprus with a vaccination certificate, though it depends on categorization of country you’re arriving from.

Estonia: Estonia requires a vaccination certificate (only accepted if in English, Estonian or Russian language) or if you can show proof you’ve had COVID-19 within past six months.

*This does not apply to travelers arriving from the United States.

Iceland: Starting 1 May, Iceland allows entry to travelers from the EU and the Schengen Area with vaccination certificate or proof you’ve had COVID-19 within the past six months. You can read the details here.

Romania: To avoid quarantine, Romania requires a vaccination certificate. Vaccinations must be at least 10 days before travel or you need proof you’ve had COVID-19 within the past 6 months.

*This does not apply to travelers arriving from the U.S.

Seychelles: The Seychelles requires proof of a final dose of vaccine two weeks before arrival along with a negative PCR test administered within 72 hours of travel.

This is an optimistic sign in these gloomy days and, with the vaccination programs kicking off in so many nations, there is hope that, although life will still not go back to “normal” for some time, we may start to see opportunities to resume travel plans.

My bags are packed!

About the author:

Photographer/writer Jackie Harding was born in the United Kingdom. As a long-time expat, she lived in Boston for 12 years and in the Netherlands for the past 10 years.

Trained as a nurse in the U.K., she worked for nine years in the United States as a special education teacher’s assistant. Since moving to the Netherlands, she has discovered writing and photography.

Contributing to Dispatches since 2016, Jackie has written about her travels around Europe as well as about expat life and issues.

She also covered the Women’s March Amsterdam.

She’s married to British businessman Martin Harding and is the mother of two international adult children.

You can read more of Jackie’s work for Dispatches here.

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