Guide for travelers who want to leave the country this summer
The 2021 season may be much better than 2020, but will still be a long way from pre-pandemic levels
Brussels / LondonSurely these past few weeks you must have started receiving emails from airlines or sponsored Instagram videos about holiday destinations. Summer is approaching and after only a few people dared to travel a year ago, this time it will be much easier, especially for those who are fully vaccinated. Within the borders of the European Union (EU) and the Schengen area the covid certificate, the digital or paper document that has to contain all vaccination or test information, will simplify paperwork at checkpoints as of 1 July. And with perhaps more hurdles, some of the Catalans' favourite non-continental destinations will also be able to be reclaimed.
Last Wednesday the European Parliament completed the EU Covid certificate, a mechanism that, in fact, is already in place in a small group of countries, including Spain. If the intention is to travel within EU borders, then there are two key issues to consider: the digital certificate and the colour map. These are two tools that the EU has put in place to avoid a chaos of paperwork and headaches before crossing any border and, therefore, to facilitate travel.
The key date is 1 July, when the certificate has to be in force throughout the EU. Before this date, you need to go to the website of each government or the spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to find out what the entry requirements are. For instance, to travel to Italy you now need a negative PCR or antigen test done two days before arrival; and in France, people vaccinated fourteen days after having received the last dose or a negative PCR done 72 hours before the trip are already accepted.
After 1 July the criteria should be unified, but it will continue to be advisable to consult the websites mentioned because each country has the power to establish others. But the certificate will simplify everything. The first thing to always check is the colour that Catalonia has on the map and the colour of the destination area. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) updates another weekly map of the EU by regions and countries. It is advisable to consult the reopen.europa.eu website, where all the information is available.
From 1 July, fully vaccinated people will be able to travel everywhere without any restrictions, unless the area of origin or destination has a particularly complex epidemiological situation. However, for unvaccinated people everything changes. This group should not have any restrictions if they come from a green zone, i.e. with a good epidemiological situation (right now, only Norway, Finland, Poland and Romania; Austria and Italy have some green regions).
If they travel from orange areas, with a regular situation (such as the Balearic Islands and the Valencian Country), they could only be required to have a negative PCR to go to any European country.
However, if they come from a red zone, they could be asked for an entry PCR and quarantined until the result of a second test is negative. In any case, children from vaccinated families should be exempted from quarantine and children under the age of six from any kind of test. Destination-by-destination consideration should be given to whether antigen tests are acceptable instead of PCR.
What will be the same everywhere will be the digital certificate. It will state in writing which vaccine has been received and when it was administered. The certificate will also include whether a person has passed the disease, which will be proven by a positive PCR no older than 180 days, and will also record any negative results or antigen tests. Thus, there will be no need to travel with a separate piece of paper or fill in a specific form to enter, but the certificate will be the same.
Outside the EU
However, if the aim is to go beyond EU borders, the caseload of cases is almost as wide as the possible countries to visit. Anecdotally, a wide range of countries are offered with all kinds of measures, showing that the global pandemic has been fought with local measures. However, the request for a negative PCR 72 hours before travel is almost universal.
You should always bear in mind that conditions can change at the same pace as the pandemic evolves, so the first thing to do is to consult the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of both the country of destination and the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For example, if you want to go to Andorra there are no restrictions. All visitors residing in French, Spanish and Portuguese territory are exempt from presenting PCR. There are also no restrictions in countries such as Mexico and Albania. This permissiveness contrasts completely with a group of states where it seems that it will be almost impossible to enter for tourism. From China and Vietnam, with all kinds of restrictions to still prevent the arrival of foreign tourists, to Argentina, which also prohibits entry to non-nationals or residents, to Australia, where the borders are closed except for Australian citizens, New Zealanders with habitual residence, permanent residents, immediate family members of the above and accredited diplomats. In the case of the United States, a series of exceptions have been drawn up which the traveller has to comply with if they want to travel there, and which can be found on the government website.
Other more accessible destinations include Brazil, South Korea, Cape Verde, Egypt and Switzerland, where a PCR test 72 hours beforehand is required. Others are more complicated: in addition to a negative PCR, countries such as the United Kingdom, Iceland, Cuba and Thailand require a quarantine.
A turning point?
In 2019, the last year in which tourist travel during the summer - and the rest of the year - was not interrupted by the pandemic, official statistics indicate that the citizens of Catalonia made three million trips outside the borders of the State. The 2019 figure is unlikely to be repeated in 2021. Last year it fell by more than 85% and the vast majority of trips were due to professional or study reasons.
In any case, next July may mark a turning point and the beginning, still very timid, of the recovery of the global tourism industry, especially thanks to a European Union and a United States with high vaccination rates.