The European Council has removed Australia from the “white list”, a list of countries from which it recommends lifting travel restrictions.
The Council’s list of disease-safe third countries is indicative and countries within the European Union can set their own border requirements, which may include quarantine or testing requirements.
What did the European Council decide?
The European Council on January 17 said it had updated its list of countries for which travel restrictions should be lifted, removing Argentina, Australia and Canada.
The decision is not binding on the member states of the European Union and is reviewed every two weeks.
According to the criteria used by the European Council, all restrictions on travelers from a third country can be lifted if the rate of Covid-19 infections is less than 75 per 100,000 in the last 14 days.
The criteria also state that countries that accept proof of vaccination to waive travel restrictions such as testing or quarantine requirements should, in principle, lift travel restrictions on all double-dose international travelers.
This decision to remove Australia from the list came in the 14 days that Australia’s daily Covid numbers skyrocketed from 30,000 to more than 100,000. Over the past week, there have been an average of 274 cases per 100,000 in Australia, down 20% from the previous seven days.
The criteria of the European Council also include a “emergency braking mechanism“.
It states: “When the epidemiological situation of a third country or region is rapidly deteriorating, in particular when a worrying or interesting variant has been detected, Member States should adopt an urgent, temporary restriction on all travel to the EU.”
Currently, the list of countries recommended for European countries to allow unrestricted travel is: Bahrain, Chile, Colombia, Indonesia, Kuwait, New Zealand, Peru, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay and China, subject to confirmation of reciprocity.
What does this mean for Australians looking to travel to Europe?
The Flight Centre’s chief executive, Graham Turner, says removing Australia from the EU’s white list will have ‘minimal impact on vaccinated Australians traveling to Europe’.
“Each EU country has its own protocols and if you’re vaccinated, most don’t require pre-departure testing and isolation on arrival,” he said.
“I think the evidence is that Australians can fly to North America and the UK/Europe within three to six weeks without pre-departure testing, and tourists can fly here under the same conditions.”
Cyprus, Greece and Italy have already said they will not restrict travelers from Australia.
Germany, on the other hand, has introduced Australia as a high-risk area since January 9th, but quarantine-free travel is still allowed for fully vaccinated Australians who test negative on arrival.
Does this affect travel to the UK?
No. The UK is currently open to quarantine-free travel from all countries.
If you are fully vaccinated with an approved vaccine and have a certificate of vaccination, you will need to book and pay for a Covid-19 test before boarding your flight, which is due to be carried out within 48 hours of your arrival in the UK. If you test positive you must isolate yourself, but there are no separate quarantine requirements.
If you are not fully vaccinated you will need to take a Covid-19 test within two days before you travel to the UK and then book and pay for PCR tests to be carried out on the 2nd and 8th days of your arrival. There is still no quarantine obligation.