Months into a widespread reopening, several countries across Europe are now tightening entry requirements, issuing curfews, imposing capacity limits on bars, and even banning music – yes, actually – amid an explosion of COVID-19 cases driven by the Delta variant.
As of Tuesday, Iceland now requires all visitors to provide a negative COVID-19 test before boarding their flights to Reykjavik (KEF), adding another layer of restrictions on top of vaccination requirements. Iceland was the first country in Europe to reopen to Americans back in March. Now, it's among the first to make it harder with COVID-19 on the rise again.
While other countries haven't followed Iceland's lead yet in making it harder to get in, popular destinations like Spain, France, Italy, and Greece are turning back to restrictions on daily life in a race to quell the latest wave of cases sweeping across the continent.
Read our full guide to European travel restrictions to see what it takes to get in – and what it's like once you get there.
Countries like Spain are requiring bars and restaurants to close at 12:30 a.m. Social gatherings are also restricted to just 10 people in some regions. Portugal also imposed similar curfews and capacity restrictions.
Just this week, both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the State Department raised their warning levels to both Spain and Portugal, urging Americans not to travel there due to COVID-19 conditions. Neither warning is binding for U.S. travelers, but it's a reversal for both countries.
In France, indoor mask mandates and capacity restrictions are being enforced again. But even getting into restaurants in Paris will get harder. Restaurants, forms of public transport, and venues with capacity over 50 will require a “Health Pass” that shows vaccination status or a recent negative COVID-19 test for entry.
And that poses a problem for travelers, as it's not yet available to Americans and other tourists. The U.S. Embassy issued an alert this week saying that some Americans have not been able to use the new French Health Pass, saying, “the Embassy is not aware of the extent to which it is still possible to have the U.S. information entered into the French system.”
In Italy, officials are set to impose a similar requirement. Starting Aug. 6, a so-called “Green Pass” showing proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test will be required to enter Italian restaurants, cinemas, stadiums, and museums, Reuters reports.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control says the Delta variant is now “dominant” in Europe, accounting for nearly 70% of cases and rising. COVID-19 cases have increased dramatically across the continent – and young people appear to be the culprits. According to WHO data, COVID-19 cases among 15 to 24-year-olds in Europe have increased five-fold over the last month.
“We are far from out of the woods in terms of the pandemic ending and sadly in many countries in our region we're seeing a significant rise in cases associated with the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant,” WHO Europe Regional Director Dr. Hans Henri Kluge said in a statement.
In perhaps the clearest attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19 among teens and young adults, Greece this month banned music on the notorious party island of Mykonos, Reuters reports. Restaurants, cafes, and clubs are not allowed to play music and nobody is allowed to move around the island between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. Plus, bar, restaurant, and theater-goers all must be vaccinated or have negative COVID-19 tests.
Meanwhile, getting back to the U.S. from Europe remains complicated. The White House confirmed this week it won't drop ongoing travel restrictions, including the requirement for a negative COVID-19 test before flying back to the U.S. from abroad – even for fully vaccinated Americans.
“With the Delta variant, we will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point for a few reasons,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday. “The more transmissible Delta variant is spreading, both here and around the world.