On Tuesday, Italy became the latest in an increasingly long line of countries to drop the testing requirement for vaccinated travelers.
Per the new rules outlined by the National Tourist Board, non-EU citizens may enter using an equivalent green COVID-19 certification issued by their country’s health authorities, certifying one of the following: a completed vaccination cycle with a vaccine recognized by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), full recovery from COVID-19, or a negative molecular or antigenic test.
Similar announcements have been rolling in weekly, with more countries — most recently, Canada, France, Portugal, Finland and Lithuania among others — scrapping testing requirements. It’s a pretty major development, considering how much of the world is still battling Omicron; of course, the one major caveat is that in order for travelers to bypass the testing requirement, they must be vaccinated.
That said, there’s also now a handful of countries that have begun doing away with the COVID vaccine requirement for travelers, too. El Salvador, Iceland, Norway and Mexico are all welcoming visitors regardless of vaccine status, sans testing and with no required quarantine on arrival.
When commenting on the number of cases in Europe juxtaposed with the loosening of travel restrictions, a top World Health Organization official in the region — Dr. Hans Kluge — explained that, whether it’s from vaccination or from recovering from an infection, lots of people now have some level of immunity, so many areas are now moving into a “period of higher protection.” Further, per a report from The New York Times, it should be seen as a “cease-fire” and “a plausible endgame” to the pandemic.
So will COVID testing requirements to travel internationally soon be a thing of the best? The answer is … maybe. Or, more accurately, probably. Particularly given the inconsistencies where testing is involved — e.g. some countries require PCR’s, while others accept rapid’s, some allow a test taken within 72 hours, others just a day — and the unreliability of testing in general. But the fact that there are countries already moving to eradicate all travel restrictions feels like a pretty significant indicator.
Will less strict vaccine requirements be soon to follow? That feels exponentially harder to predict, though it may be more pertinent in the case of the more traditionally tourist-oriented countries. Destinations whose economies have been fueled by tourism, at least historically, are undoubtedly eager to drop as many of the remaining barriers to entry possible, so as to help jumpstart a now long dormant industry.
But even still, it’s important as ever to know the rules and requirements of any individual country ahead of a trip there. If there’s anything we know for sure two years in, it’s that — for better or for worse — things can change in the blink of an eye. Best to keep that extra COVID test in your carry-on a little longer, just to be safe.
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