In a recent COVID-19 travel update, Sweden has abolished the requirement of a negative RT-PCR test before entering the country. The big news was announced on Tuesday by the Swedish government.
A statement released by the government stated, “Travelers are no longer considered to pose a particular risk of affecting the spread of Omicron in Sweden.”
Sweden has reported around 20000 daily COVID cases over the past few days, which is around double the previous record from earlier waves. The growing number had posed myriad difficulties on healthcare services but not to the same extent as before the vaccine rollout.
Last month, in December 2021, the country had imposed some strict travel restrictions due to the rise in Omicron cases. The Swedish government had asked all tourists entering the country to carry a negative COVID-19 test report (not older than 48 hours), regardless of their vaccination status.
Not only this, Christmas and New Year parties were also restricted in the country because of the COVID-19 situation. The restaurant’s capacity was limited with social distancing between groups and vaccine passports were made mandatory for many public events.
Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson had called the pandemic situation “troubling” and stated that the rising numbers of positive cases in the country is increasing the burden on healthcare.
But now, the new rule comes as a sigh of relief for travellers and holidaymakers who had pre-planned their trip to Sweden.
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The United Arab Emirates announced a travel ban on its citizens unvaccinated against coronavirus disease (Covid-19), starting January 10. The National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) of the UAE said that the vaccinated citizens, in order to travel, are further required to obtain the booster dose as per the country’s Covid protocol.
The Arab nation will allow travel for individuals medically exempted from taking the Covid-19 vaccine, humanitarian cases, and those travelling for medical and treatment purposes.
“Ban on Travel on UAE citizens unvaccinated with #Covid19 vaccine, starting Jan 10, 2022, with a requirement to obtain the booster dose for the fully vaccinated,” the official handle of NCEMA posted on Twitter. “With an exemption for medically exempted from taking the vaccine, humanitarian & treatment cases.”
The travel ban has been announced amid a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases, driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant, in the United States and Europe. The surge in Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations, with the new variant of concern causing breakthrough infections, have also led to the cancellation of hundreds of flights across the globe.
On Saturday, the UAE reported 2,556 fresh Covid-19 cases in the previous 24 hours, taking the cumulative infections to 764,493, according to the ministry of health and prevention. The ministry reported one virus-related death, taking the country’s death toll at 2,165.
Earlier this week, HT reported that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposed visit to the UAE in January has been put off because of concerns over the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the country. While no official announcement regarding the visit was made by any of the two countries, it was expected that PM Modi would have been in the UAE on January 5-6.
Stricter border controls and harsher quarantine rules are being introduced across the globe in response to the new variant.
Hong Kong is barring non-residents from Angola, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zambia, as well as all travellers who have visited Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Israel, and Italy in the past 21 days.
Meanwhile Ecuador has closed its borders to arrivals from South Africa, Botswana, Egypt, Mozambique, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Eswatini and Namibia.
This follows Hong Kong banning arrivals from eight southern African countries last week.
Singapore is tightening entry restrictions and enhancing testing protocols for travellers arriving after 11.59pm on 2 December.
All air travellers entering or transiting through Singapore must undergo a pre-departure test within two days of their departure for Singapore. Vaccinated Brits will also have to undergo supervised, self-administered ART tests at a Quick Test Centre on day three and seven of their stay in Singapore.
Travellers who arrived between 12 and 27 November and had travelled to countries or regions affected by the omicron in the previous 14 days will have to go through a one-time “surveillance” PCR test.
These measures will continue for four weeks and will be reviewed and extended if necessary.
What PCR tests are available and how much do they cost?
The faster you want to leave quarantine, the more you are likely to pay for a day 2 PCR test on entry to the UK.
Tests at airports and other other transport locations are among the most expensive. Collinson is offering post-arrival tests for £69 at Heathrow, Gatwick, East Midlands, London City, Manchester and Stansted airports – as well as the O2 in east London. Many airlines can provide discount codes – for example BA20OFF – that give a 20 per cent discount.
Arriving travellers who are not in such a hurry can save significantly by opting for a 24- or 48-hour turnaround and/or self-administering tests.
Randox has a £48 home kit (again, discountable with a code such as Easyjet2021) and says: “For samples returned via standard drop box, we aim to provide next day results up to 11.59pm.”
Read our full explainer on the testing rules for travellers here:
Scotland has higher age exemption for travel testing than other three UK nations
In Scotland, children aged under 11 need not take a PCR test when travelling into the country – in the other three UK nations the exemption only pertains to those under the age of five.
The first ministers of Scotland and Wales, Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford, wanted tougher travel rules, with eight days of mandatory self-isolation for all arrivals to the UK and a PCR test at the end.
Ms Sturgeon said: “We believe this would be more effective in detecting variants.”
Were the plan adopted, it would extend the minimum length of quarantine from a couple of hours to eight days. But it has been rejected by Downing Street.
Tourists transiting through Switzerland in under 24 hours ‘need not quarantine’
The Foreign Office has updated its guidelines for travel to Switzerland to clarify the quarantine rules for passengers transiting onward to another country.
“There is no quarantine requirement for travellers arriving in Switzerland from the UK who wish to travel onward to another country, as long as travel through Switzerland is less than 24 hours and does not involve a stopover,” reads the update on the FCDO’s Swiss entry requirements page.
There had been confusion around whether quarantine was required for those flying to Switzerland and travelling on to other countries by land rather than air, with some passengers bound for French or Italian resorts reportedly being turned away from Geneva airport over the weekend.
Ski experts Inghams have cancelled all December trips to Switzerland, following the country’s decision to impose a mandatory 10-day quarantine on all visitors from the UK.
“Following the news that Switzerland has imposed a 10 day quarantine on all UK arrivals, we have sadly suspended all December 2021 departures to Switzerland,” read a statement by CEO Joe Ponte.
“Customers impacted by this news are being offered the option to move their booking free of charge or to cancel their booking with a full refund.
“We are extremely disappointed for all our customers who were looking forward to a ski holiday in Switzerland in the coming month. Switzerland accounts for around 6% of the holidays in our winter programme, and booking numbers for the coming ski season have been strong. He emphasised that Inghams trips still have the flexibility to cope with travel rules changes, including being able to change your dates or destination up to 28 days before departure.
Hong Kong, India and Ecuador latest to tighten entry rules
Hong Kong, India and Ecuador have all announced tighter travel restrictions in response to the omicron coronavirus variant, which is quickly spreading around the globe.
Hong Kong has broadened its travel ban on non-residents, with travellers who have visited Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Canada, Israel and Australia in the past 21 day barred from entering, along with those arriving from Angola, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zambia.
Vaccinated residents may enter the city but must quarantine for seven days in a government facility before isolating for a further two weeks in a hotel at their own expense – 21 days in total.
India is also implementing stricter guidelines for international travellers, according to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation; while Ecuador is demanding that all arrivals show proof of full vaccination, plus a negative Covid test, as well as banning visitors from six southern African countries.
What are the new rules for travel testing from today?
In a statement last Thursday, the Departments for Health and Transport said: “After 04:00 Tuesday 30 November 2021 lateral flow tests will no longer be accepted.”
PCR tests are more expensive and slower to process, but allow positive tests to be sequenced to identify whether the omicron variant is involved.
The other big change from this week is that double jabbed travellers must self-isolate on arrival until a negative result comes through from their “day two” test – previously, fully vaccinated arrivals could take the test and go about their business until a result was received.
If your results are delayed, you must stay in isolation until they are confirmed, say government guidelines.
The rule change has generated confusion and further expense for travellers who had already arranged lateral flow tests around travel this week, and must now change their orders to a PCR.
The Netherlands announced harsher local restrictions on Friday, amid a surge in Covid cases this autumn.
While the country has stopped short of imposing a full lockdown, a substantial new curfew – plus government advice to “stay at home as much as possible” is likely to decimate winter breaks and holidays in the country, which is especially popular for atmospheric city breaks in hotspots such as Amsterdam.
So what does this mean for travellers to the Netherlands?
RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Demonstrations have been staged in cities across Morocco against a coronavirus vaccine passport required to access indoor activities and travel. Proof of vaccination has been mandatory since Oct. 21 for all Moroccans to enter their place of work and restaurants and for domestic and international air travel. The North African kingdom’s vaccination rate is the highest in the continent, with more than 58% of its 36 million people fully inoculated. But a vocal minority is opposed. Protests were held Sunday in the capital of Rabat, Casablanca, Tangiers in the north and Agadir in the south.
Reservations will be required on four peak travel weekends for Pacific Surfliner trains that travel between San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, an Amtrak spokesman said.
Although additional cars are being added when possible to increase the number of available seats on select trains, the number of seats onboard each Pacific Surfliner is limited.
Reservations will be required on Memorial Day weekend, May 28 to June 1; Fourth of July weekend, July 2 through 5; the opening weekend of horse racing at Del Mar Racetrack, July 16 through 19; and Labor Day weekend, Sept. 3 through 7.
More dates may be added where a reservation is required, depending on travel demand throughout the summer.
The Rail 2 Rail program will be suspended on most of the dates above, during which monthly Metrolink and COASTER passes will not be accepted onboard Pacific Surfliner trains, the spokesman said.
Amtrak monthly and 10-ride passes may still be used.
However, multiple-ride ticketholders will be required to confirm each trip — by train and date — through the Amtrak RideReserve program at Amtrak.com, on the Amtrak app or through an Amtrak agent prior to traveling during the reservation period.
Passengers are asked to follow safety measures and public health orders in place during their trips and at their destinations, including wearing a mask at stations and onboard trains at all times, washing hands or using sanitizer often and staying home if they are feeling sick.
For the first time in more than a year, San Francisco bars can serve drinks indoors without offering meals — and patrons slowly found their way to their favorite watering holes over the weekend.
The momentous change happened Friday, days after San Francisco reached the yellow tier, the least-restrictive in California’s color-coded reopening system. Until then, bars had been required to serve food in addition to drinks.
Travelers entering or leaving Australia could be required to show an electronic “vaccination passport” that shows which vaccine they received, Joyce said. He acknowledged that the government would probably need to provide input, though Australian officials have said that they are primarily focused on orchestrating the rollout of a vaccine once one is available, and have yet to decide if border restrictions will be changing. Australia requires two weeks of supervised quarantine for all new arrivals, except for New Zealanders who are exempt under the terms of the two countries’ “travel bubble.”
Starting Jan. 26, the CDC will require universal COVID testing for all passengers on international flights to the U.S.
Travelers visiting Maui, the second-most-popular vacation destination in Hawaii after Oahu, will soon have to take a second COVID-19 test to bypass the state’s mandatory quarantine.
The test, which will be free and conducted upon arrival at the airport, will begin as soon as the end of April, Maui Mayor Michael Victorino said at a news conference Wednesday.
“The post-arrival test will allow Maui County to determine if current safeguards are effective in preventing the introduction of new COVID cases, especially as new variants are being identified on the US mainland and around the world,” he said.
Travelers will be given advance notice of the requirements.
The test will be in addition to the state’s requirement, in place since October, that travelers test negative for COVID within 72 hours of their flight to Hawaii to bypass the mandatory quarantine. Those test results must be uploaded prior to the flight. Those who don’t have results when they land must quarantine. The initial quarantine period was 14 days but has since been reduced to 10 days.
When do new Maui travel restrictions begin?
Victorino said Maui officials are still working out details of the new testing program, including the selection of a medical provider to conduct the tests.
The tests will be rapid tests, he said, with the goal of delivering results in 15 or 30 minutes. Tourists and residents returning from out of state will be required to take the test to bypass a strict 10-day quarantine.
“We don’t want people waiting around a long time,” Victorino said.”We want to release those that are negative, let them get on with their vacation or get on with their travels if they’re residents going home.”
What happens to those who test positive? Victorino said those details are also still being finalized.
Will fully vaccinated travelers be exempt from new Maui COVID testing requirement
As of April 10, the updated NYS guidance says asymptomatic travelers from another country, U.S. state, or territory are no longer required to test or quarantine.
Consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, the state recommends quarantine for those who are not fully vaccinated or have not recovered from a confirmed positive case of COVID-19 in the previous three months.
You can find the exact language below:
Asymptomatic travelers entering New York from another country, U.S. state, or territory are no longer required to test or quarantine as of April 10, 2021. Quarantine, consistent with the CDC recommendations, is still recommended for all travelers who are not fully vaccinated or have not recovered from laboratory confirmed COVID-19 during the previous 3 months. Symptomatic travelers must immediately self-isolate and contact the local health department or their healthcare providers to determine if they should seek COVID-19 testing.
Travelers must continue to complete the New York State Traveler Health Form, which can be found here, unless the traveler left the state for less than 24 hours or is coming to New York from a contiguous state. Contiguous states are listed as Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont.
NYS says although the quarantine requirement is not in place for travelers they must still:
Monitor symptoms daily from day of arrival in New York through day 14;
Continue strict adherence to all recommended non-pharmaceutical interventions, including hand hygiene and the use of face coverings, through Day 14 (even if fully vaccinated); and
Must immediately self-isolate if any symptoms develop and contact the local public health authority or their healthcare provider to report this change in clinical status and determine if they should seek testing.
Fully vaccinated is defined as being 2 or more weeks after the final dose (e.g., first for Janssen/Johnson & Johnson, second for Pfizer and Moderna) of the vaccine approved by the FDA or authorized by the FDA for emergency use. Vaccines that are not authorized by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use or approved by the FDA do not satisfy this definition.
Recently recovered is defined as 1) recovered from laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 by meeting the criteria for discontinuation of isolation, 2) within the 3-month period between date of arrival in New York and either the initial onset of symptoms related to the laboratory confirmed COVID-19 infection or, if asymptomatic during the illness, the date of the laboratory confirmed test, and 3) asymptomatic after travel or new exposure.