Europe recorded 9,629,074 new cases of COVID-19 in the past seven days, most of them Omicron cases, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO). EU member states top the table as the European countries with the highest number of cases.
However, despite the numbers, some countries of the European Union and the Schengen area are already easing restrictions by removing some measures that were imposed at the end of November 2021, when the presence of the Omicron virus variant was first detected in South Africa.
Since January 21, Sweden has canceled its obligation to pre-departure testing for incoming travelers regardless of vaccination status and country of origin.
“Travelers are no longer seen as presenting a particular risk that would affect the spread of the Omicron variant in Sweden. For this reason, the specific requirement for a negative COVID-19 result from a test performed within 48 hours of arrival in Sweden is no longer a procedure Relatively speaking, according to a request from the Swedish Public Health Agency,” the Ministry of Justice explained in a press release announcing the decision.
Thus, since Friday, travelers only have to submit either a digital EU COVID certificate, vaccination certificate, recovery certificate or test within 72 hours of arrival.
Whereas, as of today, January 22, Switzerland has also canceled pre-departure testing requirements for travelers who have been vaccinated against COVID or have recovered from the virus in the last 270 days. Those who are not cured or vaccinated remain subject to the requirements. However, they will no longer have to test again between the fourth and seventh day.
The Swiss Federal Council explains: “However, due to limited testing capacity, travelers will not be required to take follow-up tests four to seven days after arrival, which means that the ‘third generation’ rule applies to entering Switzerland.”
On the other hand, the Austrian authorities have finally removed the United Kingdom, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway from the list of changing countries for viruses.
From Monday, January 24, 2022, travelers from these four countries will be eligible to enter Austria if they have received a booster dose or have been given two vaccines and have submitted a negative PCR test performed within 72 hours prior to arrival in Austria.
Those who have recently recovered from COVID-19 and have had negative results for a PCR test performed within 72 hours prior to arrival are also permitted to enter, as are those who have recovered from COVID-19 and have taken at least one vaccine.
>> Austria removes UK, Netherlands, Denmark and Norway from list of changing countries for viruses
Another country set to ease travel restrictions by the end of the month is Finland, which intends to remove internal border controls on January 31.
The decision was made based on the opinion of the Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare, which maintains that travel did not play an important role in the development of the epidemic in Finland. The same also claims that internal border controls can no longer be justified on public health grounds.
>> Finland to remove internal border controls on January 31
Later, on March 1, Cyprus intends to remove all travel restrictions for vaccinated travelers, including here those with booster shots.
The European Union and other Schengen countries have eased travel rules in other ways, some by shortening the period during which travelers arriving from risk areas must quarantine upon arrival. Among the countries that have taken such measures are Estonia, Iceland, Switzerland and others. From January 24, Cyprus will also shorten the quarantine from 14 to ten days.