Europe has recorded 9,629,074 new COVID-19 cases in the last seven days, the majority of which Omicron cases, data by the World Health Organization (WHO) show. European Union Member States top the table as the European countries with the highest number of cases.
Yet, in spite of the numbers, some EU and Schengen Area countries are already facilitating restrictions by removing some measures which were imposed at the end of November 2021, when the existence of the Omicron virus variant was first detected in southern Africa.
Since January 21, Sweden has removed the obligation to test pre-departure for incoming travellers regardless of their vaccination status and country of origin.
“Travellers are no longer considered to represent 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 conducted within 48 hours of arrival to Sweden is no longer considered to be a proportional measure, according to a request from the Public Health Agency of Sweden,” the Swedish Ministry of Justice explained in a press release announcing the decision.
Thus, since Friday, travellers are only obliged to present either an EU Digital COVID Certificate, a vaccination certificate, a recovery certificate, or a test within 72 hours of arrival.
Whereas from today, January 22, Switzerland has also removed the pre-departure testing requirement for travellers who have been vaccinated against COVID or recovered from the virus in the last 270 days. Those unrecovered and unvaccinated remain subject to the requirement. Yet, they will no longer be obliged to test once more between the fourth and seventh day.
“However, due to limited testing capacity, travellers will no longer be required to take follow-up tests four to seven days after arriving, meaning that the ‘3G’ rule applies to enter Switzerland,” the Swiss Federal Council explains.
The Austrian authorities, on the other hand, have finally removed the United Kingdom, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway from the list of virus variant countries.
Starting from Monday, January 24, 2022, travellers from these four countries will be eligible to enter Austria if they have received a booster shot or have been administered two vaccines and present negative results of a PCR test taken within 72 hours before arrival in Austria.
Those who have recently recovered from COVID-19 and present negative results of a PCR test taken within 72 hours before arrival are also permitted to enter, as well as those who have recovered from COVID-19 and have at least one vaccine taken.
>> Austria Removes the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark & Norway From List of Virus Variant Countries
Another country that is set to facilitate travel restrictions by the end of the month is Finland, which intends to remove internal border controls on January 31.
The decision has been taken based on the opinion of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, which asserts that travel has not played a significant role in the development of the epidemic in Finland. The same also claims that internal border control 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 travellers, including here those with booster shots.
Other EU and Schengen countries have facilitated travel rules in other ways, some of them by shortening the period for which incoming travellers from risk areas should quarantine upon arrival. Among the countries that have taken such measures are Estonia, Iceland, Switzerland, and more. From January 24, Cyprus will also shorten quarantine from 14 to ten days.