On top of flashing proof of vaccination, many countries across Europe also began requiring a negative COVID-19 test for entry as COVID-19 cases spiked. Now, those additional requirements are beginning to fall.
Recently, both Ireland and Switzerland dropped their COVID-19 testing requirements for fully vaccinated travelers. And last week, the United Kingdom announced it will drop its convoluted entry system with multiple mandatory tests come next month.
While the list of countries that have dropped testing requirements is short so far, it's likely to grow as Europe emerges from the Omicron-driven wave of infections, eventually loosening the stricter entry requirements they imposed as the new variant began spreading.
Many countries across Europe still require pre-travel testing in addition to proof of vaccination or recovery from COVID-19. A handful, including the Netherlands, have essentially shut out Americans with mandatory quarantines upon arrival.
This week, Norway defected from that group, announcing that it will allow Americans to visit without quarantining starting January 27. Now, Americans over the age of 16 can enter the country so long as they provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within 24 hours of travel and take another rapid test upon arrival in Norway.
Ireland dropped its testing requirement altogether earlier this month – and will soon drop nearly all COVID-19 restrictions across the country, according to the BBC. Previously, Ireland required even vaccinated travelers to present a negative rapid test taken within 48 hours of arrival in Ireland – or 72 hours before arrival with a PCR test.
Read our country-by-country guide to European travel restrictions for Americans!
In Switzerland, all travelers 16 years and older had been required to present a negative PCR COVID-19 test taken no more than 72 hours prior to arrival in Switzerland – then another test between day 4 and day 7. But Switzerland recently dropped that requirement for fully vaccinated tourists as of Jan. 22.
The U.K.'s announcement is one of the biggest movements yet across the continent – and a major change for one of the most complicated travel restriction systems.
For months, getting into England or Scotland has required two or more tests – before departing, upon arrival, and once again a few days in. After weeks of speculation, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced this week that those rules would be dropped come Feb. 11.
“You will see changes so that people arriving no longer have to take tests if they have been vaccinated, if they have been double vaccinated,” Johnson said, according to ABC News. The Brits haven't yet published formal rules, including whether they'll require travelers to be boosted or not.
The changing entry restrictions comes as the World Health Organization called on countries to drop travel bans or loosen entry restrictions, saying they do not help stop the spread of COVID-19 while harming economies. WHO also urged countries not to make proof of vaccination mandatory for international travel, arguing that unequal distribution of vaccines around the globe would unfairly disadvantage some travelers.
While its entry requirements remain unchanged, Denmark dropped its mask mandate this week, including in museums, cafes, restaurants, and nightclubs, ABC News reports. Notably, Sweden extended its mask mandates for another two weeks.
The winds of change are blowing toward dropping testing requirements abroad. But it's unclear if the U.S. will follow suit anytime soon. The U.S. requires anyone entering the country to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than one day before travel – including fully vaccinated American citizens heading home after a trip abroad.
Spring and summer trips to Europe in 2022 could have fewer testing requirements, alleviating one more pandemic travel headache this year.
Ireland, Switzerland, and now the United Kingdom are dropping their COVID-19 testing entry requirements, signaling what could be a greater trend in Europe as 2022 proceeds.