The beginning of 2022 and the rising total number of COVID-19 cases already show a completely different trend - European countries are no longer moving in the direction of bans, but on the contrary, the requirements for travellers are being relaxed, and, according to the aviation experts of Lithuanian airports, an increasing number of countries will only check the documents proving the immunity of the individual passenger, without any additional requirements. The countries no longer see any point in introducing new or maintaining the existing stricter restrictions, making conditions easier for travellers.
“The situation has changed fundamentally. Today, we have knowledge of the virus and its mutations, we have gained a lot of experience in dealing with pandemic waves, vaccines have become available and people’s willingness to travel has remained at a very high level. Statistics show that rising numbers of cases do not directly correlate with hospital admissions. All these measures allow European countries to take decisions that simplify the requirements for travellers moving between countries,” said Aurimas Stikliūnas, Head of Aviation Services Division at Lithuanian Airports.
He also argues that it is likely that, in the near future, the only criterion that will be of relevance to the countries will be whether the individual has acquired immunity to the coronavirus or whether he or she is currently free of the disease, and that there should be no further requirements. The Council of Europe made a similar recommendation in mid-January to all Member States on this approach to pandemic management.
Earlier this year, a number of countries in Europe applied additional testing requirements either before or after travel (regardless of whether a person has acquired immunity), but it has now been officially announced that almost all the countries that applied additional restrictions are abandoning them, and will simply check the validity of the immunisation document at the time of departure.
“European countries see very well that the aviation market has long since adapted to the new reality of security requirements, and that market players are still applying the highest security standards, so it no longer makes sense to further tighten the requirements if we have the means to check that it is safe for people to travel. In particular, there is no research-based evidence that travel and aviation in general is a major and directly related factor in the current increase in the number of cases within a given country”, says A. Stikliūnas.
A time of loosening restrictions
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also argued that travel restrictions are ineffective. According to the organisation, such requirements do not help control the spread of the virus. Restrictions also affect the economic situation and cause additional social stress. Therefore, according to the WHO, it makes no sense to continue to impose strict requirements on tourists.
In Europe, the UK, Ireland, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden and Italy announced looser requirements for travellers at the end of January or since February, while other countries are already actively considering it.
For example, the United Kingdom and Ireland dropped the requirement for an additional negative test for fully vaccinated persons before travel. Proof of vaccination and an entry form will be required on arrival. Travellers to Italy will only need a green passport - a document proving that you have received a full course of vaccinations, or that you have had the virus, or that you have a negative test result.
Norway has dropped the isolation requirement for all persons, regardless of their vaccination status. However, a PCR or an antigen test must be carried out 24 hours before arrival and an entry form must be completed. You will also need to be retested within 24 hours of entering the country.
Spain is one of the countries that is beginning to view the global coronavirus situation as endemic rather than pandemic. There are also plans to drop the existing restrictions in this country.
In Denmark, the virus situation is also no longer considered a critical threat to society, as even with the rising number of cases, mortality rates are decreasing and hospitals are not filling up as fast as they used to - Denmark was the first European Union (EU) country to decide to drop all remaining restrictions regarding COVID-19, with plans to drop all additional requirements for travellers at the same time.
“The easing of restrictions announced by countries only reaffirms that the pandemic is no longer stopping travel. Europe has entered a time of loosening restrictions that may never return,” said A. Stikliūnas.
About Lithuanian Airports
The network of Lithuanian Airports includes three air gates in Vilnius, Kaunas and Palanga. In 2021, Lithuanian airports handled almost 2,5 million passengers, more than 34,000 flights and more than 20,000 tonnes of cargo.