Europe begins to open for vaccinated travellers – including South Africans

Europe begins to open for vaccinated travellers – including South Africans
A return to business travel

Europe begins to open for vaccinated travellers – including South Africans

South Africa’s slow-to-start vaccine programme is finally gaining momentum, with reports that the under 35 cohort could begin to register for their COVID-19 jab as early as September.

In the meantime, the 35+ age groups, workplace programmes and reports of more vaccination sites opening up on a daily basis are all making a significant difference.

This bodes well for business travel’s recovery – especially as Europe begins to open up for vaccinated travellers.

According to Bonnie Smith, general manager of FCM, until now, red lists and quarantine have been the biggest barrier to international business travel:

“Companies have had to navigate different countries’ requirements, restrictions and protocols, and contemplate the cost of quarantine (both in terms of time and money) when it comes to restarting their travel programmes,” says Smith. “It’s good news then, that more and more European countries – with the list changing on a daily basis – are opening up to vaccinated travellers.” Sherpa, who powers Flight Centre Travel Group’s interactive COVID-19 Travel Map, has gathered data and information around the latest countries to welcome vaccinated South Africans.

At the latest count, fully-vaccinated South Africans can now visit: France, Switzerland, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovenia, Belarus, Iceland and Norway. While Albania and North Macedonia are open to travellers regardless of their vaccination status.

It’s important to note though, that the situation still remains fluid with changes and updates noted on a daily basis. A necessary caveat? Always confirm the latest situation with your Travel Expert.

Another caveat for all travellers to Europe from around the world? Only individuals who have received a vaccine which is approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), and completed their full course, are considered fully vaccinated. Significantly for South Africans, both the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved by the EMA.

France joins Switzerland as the latest European country to accept fully-vaccinated travellers from South Africa  

In exciting news overnight, France confirmed that all vaccinated persons coming from countries classified as green, orange or red can enter France without any restrictions. This includes South Africa, which is considered a ‘red country’ with active virus circulation and the presence of variants of concern.

 

Unvaccinated international travellers must have a compelling reason to enter France and present a negative RT-PCR or antigen test less than 48 hours prior to departure. They will also be required to undergo an antigenic test upon arrival and a 10-day self-isolation period monitored by the authorities.

 

According to French officials, proof of vaccination is only valid if it can attest to the completion of a complete vaccination schedule, i.e. 2 weeks after the 2nd injection for double injection vaccines (Pfizer) and 4 weeks after the injection for single-injection vaccines (Johnson & Johnson).

Switzerland lifted all testing and quarantine requirements for fully-vaccinated travellers at the end of June – including countries with worrying COVID-19 variants like Brazil, Canada and South Africa.

“This an important step in the right direction,” says Smith. “And particularly significant as South Africans line up to get their first jab. Many will be eligible to enter the likes of France, Switzerland, Montenegro, Norway and more within the next two or three months, as they meet the ‘fully vaccinated’ requirements. Both Swiss Air and Air France are flying to South Africa (subject to traveller and country restrictions) so chat to your FCM Travel Consultant for more information.”

Waiting on the United Kingdom – and others

“Of course,” says Smith, “Companies are waiting with bated breath for the UK to open up. Unfortunately, South Africa remains firmly on their red list and even if the UK drops mandatory quarantine for fully-vaccinated travellers, which is now under consideration after ‘Freedom Day’ on Monday, this is unlikely to include South Africans until we are off the red list.”

Other countries in Europe continue to impose strict rules on travellers from countries still considered ‘high-risk’. Belgium, for example, still has entry bans placed on travellers who have spent any time in selected countries during the past 14 days (including, you guessed it, South Africa) – while Belgium nationals returning home from countries considered highly affected by the Coronavirus will face PCR tests on the first and seventh day after arrival as well as a mandatory 10-day quarantine in some cases.

“We know that some 13+ countries in Europe accepting fully-vaccinated South Africans is just the start,” says Smith. “There is a long way to go, but what is encouraging, is that more and more countries are adjusting their restrictions on a weekly if not daily basis. Clients can keep in close contact with their FCM Travel Consultant for updates and information – or use Flight Centre’s travel map as an important resource.”

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