Omicron: International travel restrictions criticised by expert
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Nations around the world are beginning to ramp up coronavirus restrictions once again as concerns surrounding a new variant of COVID-19, Omicron, have started to mount. For nations such as Spain, Portugal, Turkey and the US, this means once again tightening up entry rules for international travellers.
What are the latest travel rules?
The Spanish Government has announced changes for UK arrivals to come into force from December 1, 2021.
Spain’s tourism board has stated that “all travellers from the United Kingdom will need to show proof of being fully-vaccinated (with both doses of a two-dose vaccine or one dose of a one-dose vaccine) at least 14 days prior to arrival in Spain.”
This means that passengers who are not yet vaccinated will not be permitted to enter Spain.
Children under 12 years old are exempt when travelling with an adult.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) states: “Spain will accept the UK’s COVID-19 vaccination record.
“If you are travelling with a printed PDF proof of vaccination status, it must date from November 1 to ensure that the certificate can be scanned successfully.
“Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination and should not be used to demonstrate your vaccine status.”
Prior to travelling to Spain, all passengers must also present a QR code which is obtained from filling in the Health Control Form available via the Spain Travel Health (SpTH) website.
Portugal is due to enter a “State of Calamity” from December 1, 2021.
According to the FCDO: “Measures reintroduced regarding masks, entry into establishments with closed spaces and requirement for a negative COVID-19 test to enter Portugal.”
From December, all travellers will be required to show evidence of a negative coronavirus test, regardless of their vaccination status.
The FCDO states COVID-19 pre-departure tests must be taken “before you travel”.
Children up to and including the age of 11 are exempt.
The FCDO adds: “This can be an antigen test taken within 48 hours of departure or a RT-PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure.
“If you have an antigen test, make sure it meets the standards set out in the EU common list of Rapid Antigen Tests. Check your test result identifies the type of test taken and gives your name, date of birth, the date and time the sample was collected and the date of the result.
“You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test.”
Carriers who bring passengers into Portugal without evidence of a negative test could be fined up to €20,000 (£16,927).”
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Turkey has outlined some additional entry requirements, with tighter restrictions for arrivals arriving from or who have visited in the previous 14 days, the following countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, India, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
At the time of writing, the latest rules for travellers arriving from the UK see them having to show either proof of having received a full course of COVID-19 vaccination, recent recovery from COVID-19 or a negative test.
Tests can be either a negative PCR test taken in the 72 hours before arrival, or a rapid antigen test taken in the 48 hours before arrival.
The rules apply to all passengers aged 12 and above.
The FCDO adds: “All arrivals into Turkey aged 6 and over, including Turkish citizens and residence permit holders, must complete an online form a maximum of 72 hours prior to travel.”
On November 29, the FCDO announced an “update to information following changes to US entry rules in response to the Omicron COVID-19 variant”.
The update states: “Due to concerns surrounding the Omicron COVID-19 variant, from November 29, 2021, the US Government has suspended entry into the USA for non-citizens who have been in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the USA. More details are on The White House website.
“Restrictions may change at short notice so you should check this regularly in case of further developments.”
Arrivals from the UK are allowed to enter the US as long as they are “fully vaccinated with any COVID-19 vaccine approved for emergency use by the World Health Organisation or approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)”.
These are the AstraZeneca, BIBP/Sinopharm, Covishield, Janssen, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Sinovac vaccines.
Fully vaccinated air passengers arriving in the US from a foreign country must get a COVID-19 test no more than three days before their flight departs.
Fully vaccinated travellers do not have to quarantine, but are “recommended to take a viral test within three to five days of arrival in the US”.
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