New EU Travel Restrictions, Country By Country, As Covid-19 Rates Soar

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As Covid-19 rates soar across the EU, countries are mostly united in deciding they need to restrict travel but they differ in the execution of rules.

The outlook is changing on a weekly basis in regards to both getting into EU countries but also in how governments are controlling the movement of people inside.

This country by country guide explains who is now allowed into each EU country and what they can do when they get there—some countries are under lockdown.

Who can come into the EU?

The recommendation, based upon the European Centre for Disease Control’s ‘traffic light’ system (explained below) is that currently, only travelers arriving from Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay and China can enter the EU bloc.

America, like every other country which is not on this list, remains banned at an EU level.

It’s worth noting, however, that this isn’t legally binding and European countries can decide for themselves. Croatia, for instance, is allowing U.S. visitors to travel to the country providing they meet the screening requirements and possess a negative Covid-19 test.

The ECDC uses a traffic light map

On 13 October, the EU adopted joint travel restrictions so that it would be easier to understand and regulate travel across member states during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Crucially for the EU, these restrictions impinge upon the rights of Europeans to travel freely throughout the 27 member countries—a major step back for European regulation, which likes to protect free movement across the Schengen area (those countries which have signed up for free-movement of people across Europe).

The idea is that there is a ‘common map’ across European countries that would provide an overview of the pandemic. This map considers three factors:

  • the notification rate (the total number of newly notified COVID-19 cases per 100 000 population in the last 14 days at regional level);
  • the test positivity rate (the percentage of positive tests among all tests for COVID-19 infection carried out during the last week); and
  • the testing rate (the number of tests for COVID-19 infection per 100 000 population carried out during the last week)

Data is compiled and analyzed on behalf of all member countries by the European Center for Disease Control (ECDC).

The Common Map works on a traffic light basis, where regions will be coloured ‘green’, ‘orange’, ‘red’ and ‘grey’ (if not enough information is available):

  • green, if the notification rate is less than 25 and the test positivity rate is less than 4%;
  • orange, if the notification rate is less than 50 but the test positivity rate is 4% or more, or, if the notification rate ranges from 25 to 150 but the test positivity rate is less than 4%;
  • red, if the notification rate is 50 or more and the test positivity rate is 4% or more, or if the notification rate is more than 150; and
  • grey, if not sufficient information is available or if the testing rate is 300 or less.

This traffic light system is not enforceable by law and each member state must decide if they will implement it.

Travel restrictions are implemented differently

Crucially though, whilst many countries are using the same numbers in order to work out if to restrict movement and how, the process has varied from country to country, both in the restriction of people coming into the country and of its residents–even amongst the U.K., for instance, each country has reacted differently:

Albania arrivals pass through “disinfection tunnels”

Cases are increasing, as elsewhere in Europe, but whilst residents were in lockdown in March and April, the government has firmly stated that it won’t put the country back into lockdown.

Albania is currently open to all EU residents. Passengers arriving at airports are undergoing “body temperature measurements” and will be checked out by a doctor with a body temperature higher than 37.5°C.

Austria is allowing seasonal workers in from third countries

Entry from most EU+ countries is currently okay without restrictions, except for parts of the Czech Republic, Croatia, France, Portugal, Spain and Bulgaria–where either quarantine is required or a negative Covid-19 test, taken within the last 72 hours.

The Austrian government has recently brought in new measures inside the country–as reported by The Local, where masks are mandatory at all indoor and outdoor events from midnight Friday 23 October, and private gatherings have a voluntary limit of 6 people.

Belgium is in lockdown

Belgium is currently in lockdown, where restaurants and bars are closed and people are working from home where possible. As outlined by Politico, people are only allowed to socialise with one person outside of their household (and it must always be the same person). Four people are allowed in someone’s home, if social distancing rules are followed, and the group must stay the same throughout the lockdown.

For incoming visitors to the country, Belgium is using the ECDC traffic light system and obliging anyone arriving from red zones after 15 November to test negative upon arrival or quarantine for 14 days. As per the ECDC map above, most of Europe is currently a red zone.

All passengers arriving in Belgium by air or sea must fill in a “Public Health Passenger Locator Form” and give it to border authorities.

Non-essential travel to and from outside the EU and Schengen countries remains prohibited.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Borders have been open to EU and Schengen nationals since July 16 provided travelers have a negative Sars-CoV-2 test not older than 2 days. There is a travel ban on all other foreign nationals, with some exceptions.

Internally, mask wearing and social distancing are required on public transport, in public places and outside in most parts of the country.

Bulgaria is open to 46 countries

The list of countries able to arrive in Bulgaria without restrictions are regularly updated–they include the list of EU approved countries and EU member states.

Arrivals from Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia, North Macedonia, Albania, Kuwait, Moldova, Israel and any other third country must have a negative Covid-19 test and sign a health declaration. U.S. visitors are not on the list of 46 allowed countries.

The Guardian reported that Bulgaria reported 1,024 new infections Tuesday, the highest since the first cases were reported in March. (It has 7 million residents and has recorded 1,008 deaths).

In response, face masks are now obligatory in all outdoor spaces, which Minister of Health, Kostadin Angelov, hoped would slow the spread of the virus by about 30% and help alleviate pressure on hospitals.

Croatia has open borders, even to U.S. visitors

Croatian borders are open to more than just EU nationals and also include U.K., Switzerland, Norway, Lichtenstein, Andorra, San Marino, Monaco and Holy See visitors.

Croatia is also allowing other access from other countries–including the U.S.–if travelers meet requirements and hold a valid negative Covid-19 test result–otherwise they must quarantine. Everyone must also fill in an online form to hand in at the border.

Much like other EU countries, Croatia is experiencing rising infection rates and has implemented mandatory mask wearing and a limit on public gatherings. The Prime Minister is resisting a lockdown.

Cyprus works on a three-group list, A, B and C

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou announced new health measures on 22 October to curb the “alarming” rise in rates across the country. Movement is banned between 11 pm and 5am except for people needing to get to work, or for medical/pharmacy emergencies. Masks must be worn in all outdoor areas. The new health decree runs, at present, until 9 November.

At its borders, Cyprus has three categories based on a country’s epidemiological situation, and updates the list to announce who can enter and how.

There are currently only 7 countries on list A, the most epidemiologically sound, where no restrictions are in place: Australia, Finland, Germany, Korea, Republic of Latvia, New Zealand and Thailand.

List B–passengers coming from these countries need to test negative for the virus no later than 72 hours prior to their arrival and include: Canada, China, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Holy See (Vatican City State), Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Rwanda, San Marino, Serbia, Sweden, United Kingdom and Uruguay.

Every other country is on list C, where entry is banned (except in a few circumstances).

Every passenger must fill in a Cyprus Health Pass upon arrival.

Czech Republic in lockdown with highest EU infection rates

AP reported that the Czech Republic’s government has re-imposed the same heavy restrictions it put on citizens in the spring, despite the Prime Minister saying that it would never happen. Prime minister Andrej Babis has apologised according to CNN, telling the Czech people, “I am sorry for the new restrictions”. The New York Times reported that doctors and nurses are falling ill at an alarming rate.

For its external borders, the country has divided EU member states into high and low risk, where only visitors from Spain at present cannot enter (except if they have a negative Covid-19 test result).

As other member countries, it is allowing in visitors from the 15 agreed non-member states but no other third-party nationals are allowed.

Denmark is planning to introduce new measures

There is a helpful list in English entitled “Is My Country/Region Open or Banned?” where ‘high risk’ countries currently include France, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Italy, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Poland, Vatican City, Iceland and San Marino. Entry can only happen with a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours.

Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay are not banned.

As for its citizens, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen is expected to introduce new measures in the coming days, including extending the current mask mandate and possibly bringing the closure of bars and restaurants before 10pm. Frederiksen has said that Danes should expect to cancel Christmas parties.

Estonia is open to EU+ nationals

EU citizens plus Schengen nationals, as well as visitors from the U.K., Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican can visit if they do not have symptoms.

Arrivals from other countries not mentioned on this list must go into a 14-day quarantine.

Finland will change requirements from 23 November onwards

From November 23, travelers arriving from all EU, Schengen countries, and the U.K. will be allowed in (even with high rates) but they must have proof of a negative Covid-19 test, taken in the 72 hours prior to arrival. They will then have to quarantine for 72 hours until a second negative test, which will give them the freedom to travel Finland without restrictions.

Since October 12, arrivals from Cyprus, Latvia and Lichtenstein have not been allowed to enter without quarantine and until November 23, arrivals will be allowed in without self-isolating for 14 days if they arrive from a country which has less than 25 cases per 100,000 people in the last fortnight.

Finland currently has internal restrictions on operating hours for some businesses and home working is encouraged at all times. Restaurants and bars are currently under reduced hours until 31 October.

France put 46 million people under curfew

France introduced curfews on 9 metropolitan areas on 17 October between the hours of 9pm and 6am, where anyone outside of their house would need a special form, or attestation, explaining the reason why (childcare and work are acceptable reasons).

The first curfew affected 22 million people but with spiking rates–France reported its highest ever daily rate Thursday of 41,600 new cases–the curfew has been extended to other areas to now include 46 million of France’s 67 million residents from Saturday 24 October.

France has been highlighting how it expects half of all its hospital beds to be full by the end of October, as reported in Les Echos, and patients are again being transferred to cities in other regions as hospitals become saturated (as they were in the first wave).

France has become the second country in Western Europe to surpass 1 million COVID-19 cases and the director of hospitals in Paris, Martin Hirsch, called Friday for further travel restrictions or the second wave risks “being worse than the first”.

France is currently open to all EU+ member states, as well as the U.K. and visitors from Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, the United Kingdom and Uruguay–without a need to quarantine.

All arrivals must now present a filled in attestation swearing that they do not have Covid-19 symptoms and that the reasons for travel. Anyone with symptoms upon arrival must self-isolate immediately.

Germany reported highest ever new cases

Germany reported 11,287 new cases of the virus on Thursday; the first time it has broken the 10,000 mark. It has brought in new measures, extending face mask requirements where the incidence rate is higher than 35 cases per 100,000 inhabitants and curbing the opening of bars and restaurants particularly in larger cities such as Berlin, Cologne and Frankfurt.

Germany has a list of countries and regions from which travel is restricted and it recently added France, Malta, the Netherlands and Slovakia. From October 24, it will add the whole of the U.K. and Switzerland to this list.

It has, as reported by Euronews, offered to pay for Covid-19 tests in the first three days of arrival, for people arriving from high-risk countries.

Greece introduced a curfew in the Athens region

In Greece, people in the Athens area and other parts of the country with high infection rates were put under a curfew from 12:30 am to 5 am. AP reported that Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a televised address. “With a little less fun, for a short period of time, we will have better health for a long time.”

Negative Covid-19 tests are required for travellers from Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, the United Arab Emirates, Malta, Belgium, Spain, Russia, Albania and North Macedonia as will people crossing Greece’s land borders.

Flights have been suspended to and from Turkey and health screening is taking place at airports. All arrivals are required to fill in a passenger locator form.

Hungary’s largest Christmas market is cancelled

France 24 reported that in October more Hungarians have died than in the previous four months put together and Prime Minister Viktor Orban is facing pressure to lockdown the country and bring in stricter measures. On October 19, Hungary had the third-highest Covid-19 death rate per million in the bloc, behind Czech Republic and Romania. Budapest’s Vörösmarty Square Christmas market has been cancelled.

The country opened its borders without restrictions to citizens of the European Union, the European Economic Area (excluding the United Kingdom) and Switzerland on 21 June. Any other arrivals must quarantine either for a period of 14 days or until they produce two negative Covid-19 tests taken two days apart.

Iceland is registering foreign nationals

Whilst borders are open to EU and U.K. visitors, arrivals must either choose to enter a 14-day quarantine or take two Covid-19 tests, five days apart, which must result in a negative result.

All foreign nationals who cannot leave the country must register with the government to be legally allowed to stay.

Ireland wants to “save Christmas” with a lockdown

Currently anyone from anywhere must quarantine, including Irish residents, for 14 days–there are no longer any countries on the safe list.

AP announced that Ireland’s Prime Minister Michael Martin has closed all non-essential shops, restaurants can only offer takeout, and people must not travel further than 5 kilometers (3 miles) from their homes for the next six weeks. Schools will stay open. The aim is to save Christmas.

Italy introduces local curfews to avoid national lockdown

Italy was the first country in Europe to impose a national lockdown in March. Italy has recorded more infections than before but doesn’t want to close down the economy.

Instead it is imposing a midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew in Italy’s Lazio region, which includes Rome, beginning on Friday 23 October and lasting for 30 days. The southern region of Campania, which includes Naples, on Thursday ordered residents to stay at home from 11 p.m. to shortly before dawn starting the next day. A similar curfew in Lombardy, where infections are surging in Milan, will start Thursday night.

All arriving passengers into Italy must complete a passenger form and most arrivals from EU member states don’t need to quarantine. However, arrivals from Belgium, France, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Spain and the U.K. must show a negative swab test within 72 hours of arrival or take one at an airport or Italian health clinic.

Every other country is restricted to a reason and must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine period.

Latvia won’t allow more than four non-household visitors to meet

Latvia updates its entry list on a weekly basis and currently only Estonia, Finland, Norway and Cyprus don’t require any quarantine. All other EU countries, plus the U.K. must enter a ten-day quarantine. Since October 12, all arrivals must fill in an electronic form 48 hours before arriving in the country.

Latvia has reduced access to amenities for its population and no more than four non-household visitors can be at the same table.

Lithuania is limiting arrivals from the 50 most affected places

Whilst the country as a whole is open to EU, EEA, Switzerland and the U.K. visitors, this is only true if the number of cases hasn’t exceeded 16 per 100,000 people in the population over the last 14 calendar days. Vilnius also has a 14-day mandatory quarantine period for its nationals or visitors arriving from the 50 countries most affected by Covid-19 including Sweden, Russia, Belarus, Portugal, and the U.S.

For residents or visitors out of quarantine, the country has tightened mask measures, limited public gatherings and adopted the ECDC traffic light system for its internal regions as well.

Luxembourg has banned travelers from outside EU

Luxembourg has not restricted its border from other European visitors, although travel from outside Europe is banned. It is also allowing visitors from the countries recommended by the EU.

Malta has the highest mortality rate amongst EU countries

At the end of September, the ECDC reported that Malta had the highest mortality rate of all EU countries, at 3.6 deaths per 100,000 people over a 14-day period.

Countries on Malta’s ‘green list’ which currently don’t have restrictions are: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France (except for passengers arriving from Paris and Marseille), Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Latvia, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Morocco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Rwanda, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Sweden, Spain (excluding Barcelona, Girona and Madrid), Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, the UK, Uruguay and Vatican City.

Other countries are on an ‘amber list’ where visitors need to show negative Covid-19 tests taken within 72 hours prior to boarding flights to Malta. Amber list countries are Czech Republic, France (arrivals from Paris and Marseille), Romania, Spain (passengers from Barcelona, Girona and Madrid) and Tunisia.

Montenegro operates a green and yellow list

Entry to Montenegro is allowed from countries on a ‘green list’, which includes EU countries and Andorra, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, Turkey, United Kingdom, Ukraine.

Other countries on the ‘yellow list’ such as Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia must provide a negative Covid-19 test within the last 72 hours.

There are some curfews operating locally and masks are mandatory in many places.

The Netherlands is requiring quarantine from most EU states

The Netherlands is currently in a partial lockdown involving a four-week closure order for bars and restaurants by 10 pm. Measures include wearing masks in shops, avoiding all non-essential travel and as reported by the BBC, social gatherings inside people’s homes shouldn’t exceed three people.

You do not need to quarantine if you’re travelling from the EU-wide safe list, namely, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay or China.

However, anyone arriving from most EU countries must self-quarantine for 10 days upon arrival, even if they have no symptoms and a negative test result. The list involves: Andorra, Austria (the regions of Tyrol, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Vorarlberg, Lower Austria, Upper Austria and Vienna), Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark (Copenhagen, Faaborg-Midtfyn, Slagelse, Arhus, Solrod, Koge and Greve), France, Greece (all Greek islands excluding the mainland), Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania (City of Siauliai), Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Poland, Portugal (Area Metropolitana de Lisboa and the city of Porto), Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland (Cantons of Geneva, Freiburg and Vaud) and the U.K.

Norway is due to announce increased restrictions in November

There is an updated map from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health which shows which countries don’t need to quarantine upon arrival, which at the moment includes certain regions of Finland (seven hospital districts and the Åland Islands), Sweden (Kalmar) and Greenland. Since October 17, most other arrivals from EU countries have to self-isolate for 10 days.

On 22 October, Norway recorded its highest daily record of cases, in line with spikes across all other EU countries. Prime minister Erna Solberg will bring in new measures  in November, saying, “if we now take action to reduce the infection, there is a greater chance that extended family can meet and celebrate Christmas.”

Poland has opened a field hospital in its largest stadium

As reported by AP, Poland broke a record Thursday in reporting 12,100 new cases and registering nearly 170 new deaths–Poland has turned its largest stadium into an emergency field hospital.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is expected to introduce tighter restrictions such as mandatory use of masks in all open public spaces, limits on the number of customers in shops and on public transport, and gyms and swimming pools might be closed.

Borders are open for EU, EFTA and UK nationals with no quarantine conditions.

Portugal is banning travel over Halloween

Portugal is expected to make the wearing of masks mandatory outdoors across the country and it is banning people from traveling across counties between 31 October and 2 November–Halloween and All Saints’ Day weekend. Health Minister Marta Temido wants to discourage family get togethers, which are blamed for the new infection spikes.

U.K., EU and Schengen area arrivals are allowed to visit, as are the EU-mandated countries. Everyone will undergo airport screening and temperature checks and some people might be asked to take a Covid-19 test and isolate until they get the results.

Romania has alarming rates of infection

Two weeks after schools reopened, Romania has seen a rapid rise in infection rates, alarming World Health Organisation workers.

People coming from EU countries and U.K., Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein may visit Romania but they must quarantine for 14 days if the incidence rate in their country of origin is greater than the one in Romania.

Serbia has open borders

The Serbian government has banned public gatherings involving more than 30 people, indoors or outdoors and face masks are mandatory. Cafes, clubs, and restaurants are allowed to operate until 11 pm.

Serbia’s borders are open but a self-assessment test is required for all arrivals (residents included) and referrals might be made to clinics to seek negative Covid-19 tests.

All foreigners entering Serbia from Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania and Northern Macedonia are required to provide a negative Covid-19 test, including Americans.

Slovakia is under partial curfew

Starting 24 October, Slovakia is under a partial curfew until 1 November, where amenities have been closed and residents limited in their movement.

Externally, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, San Marino, Slovenia, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, the UK, and the Vatican City are on the list of “low-risk countries and territories”.

Slovenia has 4 countries on its ‘green list’

Only 4 countries are currently on Slovenia’s ‘green list’–Australia, New Zealand, Serbia and Uruguay—and not subject to restrictions.

Countries on the red list, currently including Belgium, Czech Republic, Iceland and Spain, must quarantine and possess a negative Covid-19 test.

Only some parts of other European countries are included on the list, including Austria, Ireland, the UK, Estonia, Bulgaria, France, Hungary, Lithuania, Romania and Switzerland.

Spain has implemented a state of emergency and is closing regions

Spain became the first country in Western Europe to hit more than 1 million confirmed infections (1,005,295) this week as it implemented a state of emergency in Madrid, limiting people’s movement–banning social gatherings between midnight and 6 a.m. for people who do not live together and closing bars and restaurants at midnight.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the number of people in Spain who have contracted the virus is probably higher than 3 million, three times the official number, as reported by Bloomberg.

In Catalonia, the region surrounding Barcelona, bars and restaurants have closed. And many regions are closing entirely: the northern Navarra region has ordered all bars and restaurants closed, for example, and shops and businesses can open only until 9 pm. 

Travelers arriving into Spain from EU member states, Schengen area countries and the UK do not have to self-isolate and it is open to the 15 non-member states approved by the EU Council.

Sweden is rethinking its open approach

Sweden followed a different line early on in the pandemic by keeping everything open, instead of enforcing a lockdown. Time recently reported that a surge in Covid-19 infection rates was forcing the Swedish government to rethink its approach, and possibly enact local lockdowns or close businesses at certain times.

Sweden currently has a ban on all non-essential travel from outside the EU/EEA area.

Switzerland has introduced new measures on its residents

Since 19 October, Switzerland has extended measures on its residents to try to curb spiralling Covid-19 rates–these include mandatory mask wearing in public places and working from home.

Switzerland regularly updates its list of countries and as reported by Euronews, parts of Germany (including newly-added Berlin and Hamburg), France, Italy and Austria are on the red list, as well as the whole of Croatia, Denmark, Spain, Ireland, the Netherlands and the U.K., among others.

Zurich, Geneva and Basel are the only airports open to overseas visitors.

U.K.–England and Scotland have introduced tiers

In order to make more sense of internal travel restrictions, England introduced a system of 3 tiers. The majority of the country is on tier one (medium) but in tier two (high), including London, people must socialise just within their household bubbles.

In tier three (currently Greater Manchester, Liverpool region and Lancashire), bars are closed unless serving “substantial meals”, as reported by Sky News, social mixing is banned indoors and the “rule of six” applies outdoors.

Wales has initiated a two-week ‘fire break’ to coincide with the school holidays to try to stem the rise in infections (until 9 November) where everybody must stay at home, all non-retail businesses are closed and mixing with other households is not allowed.

Scotland unveiled a five-tier plan, as reported in The Guardian, which will come into effect on 2 November. The highest level for affected areas is similar to a complete lockdown, which much of Europe enacted in March.

England introduced a system of travel corridors where it updates the counties which don’t have to quarantine upon arrival every Friday–currently, this list incorporates Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Gibraltar, Germany, Greece (except Mykonos), Greenland, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden.

Anyone arriving from a country which is not on this list must self-isolate for 14 days–this list currently includes France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, and Belgium.

All arrivals must complete a travel locator form and Wales and Scotland have followed similar rules for entry.

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