It seems that a negative PCR test is just as important as a valid passport these days.
On July 1st, 2021, the European Union announced that it would lift restrictions for visitors from more than a dozen countries, including the United States. After months of stay-at-home orders and closed borders, travel restrictions started to soften, and leisure travelers were itching to hit the road again.
As we look toward travel this year, you might be wondering: What will travel look like and what will I need to do?
The first cases of the Omicron variant has recently been confirmed in the U.S. The CDC strongly recommends that anyone over the age of 18 gets their booster shot and anyone over the age of 5 get vaccinated.
The Biden Administration has recently come out with a new plan that will help combat the spread of the virus in the United States. This will include federal funding for more vaccination clinics and free transportation to vaccination sites that have been arranged by the AARP and reimbursement for at-home testing.
“Travel, like any activity that involves coming into contact with other people from different households, is not risk-free even after full vaccination. The good news is that having the required number of doses and giving time for the vaccines to take effect significantly reduces your risk of becoming seriously ill and spreading the virus to others,” says the WHO.
With nothing standardized, traveling can be a hectic whirlwind.
"Even when you triple check the rules, you could be refused to board - it put me out of pocket, distressed me, and distressed my elderly parents whom I was visiting."
Sally Shiels was due to fly from Birmingham airport to Dublin on Friday 21 May to visit her parents.
Sally says: "On my arrival at the front of the queue, the ground staff said I was not allowed to board. I asked why and she said it needed the letters PCR. “And when I explained that this was a valid test, it even said exactly what PCR test it was, while it didn't say the letters P, C and R, I couldn't convince her, and myself and 30 other passengers were refused boarding for a variety of reasons that day.”
The travel industry has officially changed and we want to help you prepare for you next flight.
It is now required that you take a COVID-19 test at least 24 hours before traveling.
Even after testing and vaccination, it is still mandatory to wear masks on public transportation until March 18th. This is required for both vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers.
HOW HAS TRAVELING CHANGED?
1. Travel will have different (expensive & unpredictable) seasons
A paper from Imperial College London speculates that in order to keep demands on healthcare systems at a manageable level, governments will need to turn lockdown measures on and off according to spikes COVID-19 cases. For example, amidst a spike in new cases, Vietnam is tightening restrictions in the hopes of repeating its 2020 successes against the virus. This means that the opportunity window to travel will only last a few weeks or even days. And due to the limited seats, prices during these windows could dramatically increase. Travel restrictions will continue to shape travel in the months to come, and having quick and reliable access to this information will be the only way for you to make travel plans.
2. Recovery will be uneven
Most importantly access to vaccines is uneven (example of % vaccinated in EU and Asia) During a spike in infection rates, a new strain of COVID-19 e.g. the delta variant, individual countries will impose quarantine and lockdowns. A good indicator of trouble ahead is the infection rate which can be found here and the vaccination rate at your desired location.
3. The line at immigration will be longer than ever before
One of the biggest worries is that new variants and infections are coming in from the outside. Countries that are on top of their outbreaks have already started implementing more regulations. Travel to and from the United States is still restricted or even closed and some countries like Singapore require a 2-week quarantine for international arrivals, even if they present a negative COVID-19 PCR test. Many countries are testing at the border. If you thought the line at JFK immigration control was torturous before, now consider what it’ll be like as you line up, take a swab test, and wait for the results unless you show up with a negative PCR test.
4. You’ll need more than a passport
According to a travel agency firm, “some countries will not even take the chance of testing at the border. Especially if you’re coming from an outbreak hotspot. Entrance could be refused unless you have a certificate of immunity due to the fact that you’ve recovered from an infection or because you’ve been vaccinated. Some countries might not let you in if you’ve been vaccinated with Sputnik instead of Pfizer or Moderna, for example. Wristbands with barcodes like those in the movie Contagion are a very real prospect.
We’re not yet close to a standardized system, but several apps and platforms have either been rolled out or are in development. In the meantime, here are the steps you should take after getting vaccinated so you can use a digital health passport when you’re ready to travel.
If you’re in the United States, you’ll often receive a physical paper card — called the COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card — from the CDC after being vaccinated. This card includes medical information about the vaccine you received, the date of vaccination and where you were vaccinated.
A vaccine passport app will host verified COVID-19 vaccine information similar to what you’d see on your card. These apps will also store information about recent COVID-19 test results. Some of the publicly available vaccine passports include:
• CommonPass: Travelers on select United Airlines and Lufthansa flights from Frankfurt to the U.S., Hawaiian Airlines and United flights to Hawaii and JetBlue flights to Aruba can use the CommonPass app.
• IBM Digital Health Pass: New York partnered with IBM to create the Excelsior Pass. A New Yorker can use the Excelsior Pass if he or she has been fully vaccinated in New York state and it’s been 14 days or longer since the final shot; had a negative PCR test administered in New York within three days, or took a negative antigen test in New York in the last six hours.
• V-Health: Its technology is already being included in a platform called HELIIX Health Pass, which has been introduced in Las Vegas to reopen the city.
Certainly in the short term, travel will become more defined by purpose. Any business travel will need to be strictly validated as an economic activity, with companies tightening the numbers of employees who travel for them. Countries will likely only open their borders where there is merit and it’s safe to let travelers through. This may mean temporary visas and more documentation that you’ll need to take with you when traveling.”
That a passenger has written or electronic documentation of recovery from COVID-19 means confirmation that:
(1) The passenger has presented documentation of a positive test result and a signed letter on official letterhead that contains the name, address, and Start Printed Page 6333phone number of a licensed healthcare provider or public health official stating that the passenger has been cleared for travel; 
(2) the positive test result occurred within the last three months (90 days) preceding the passenger's flight to the United States, or at such other intervals as specified in CDC guidance;
(3) the personal identifiers (e.g., name and date of birth) on the positive test result and signed letter match the personal identifiers on the passenger's passport or other travel documents;
(4) the test performed was a viral test (as defined below); and
(5) the test result states “POSITIVE,” “SARS-CoV-2 RNA DETECTED,” “SARS-CoV-2 ANTIGEN DETECTED,” or “COVID-19 DETECTED.” A test marked “invalid” is not acceptable.
1. It’s no longer socially acceptable to travel when you’re sick
The current situation and the conviction with which the world is adopting social distancing will make it socially unacceptable to travel with a cold or any symptoms of an upper respiratory illness. Even those who have recovered from COVID-19, and have built up immunity won’t want to travel with a cold.
STAYING ON TRACK OF REQUIREMENTS
How do I make sure the country is safe to travel to?
• Level Unknown: COVID-19 Unknown–– Avoid travel to these destinations. If you must travel to these destinations, make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel.
• Level 1: COVID-19 Low–– Make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel to these destinations.
• Level 2: COVID-19 Moderate––Make sure you are fully vaccinated before traveling to these destinations. Unvaccinated travelers who are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should avoid nonessential travel to these destinations.
• Level 3: COVID-19 High–– Make sure you are fully vaccinated before traveling to these destinations. Unvaccinated travelers should avoid nonessential travel to these destinations.
• Level 4: COVID-19 Very High–– Avoid travel to these destinations. If you must travel to these destinations, make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel.
How do I find what the country’s requirements for entry are?
Re-open EU provides information on the various measures in place, including quarantine and testing requirements for travelers, the EU Digital COVID certificate to help you exercise your right to free movement, and mobile coronavirus contact tracing and warning apps. The information is updated frequently and available in 24 languages. This should help you plan your travel in Europe while staying safe and healthy.
If you plan to travel internationally, you will need to get tested no more than 3 days before you travel by air into the United States (US) and show your negative result to the airline before you board your flight, or be prepared to show documentation of recovery (proof of a recent positive viral test and a letter from your healthcare provider or a public health official stating that you were cleared to travel).
Learn about country-specific entry requirements such as the border status, COVID-19 testing requirements, and quarantine requirements. Many countries are reopening their borders for international travel. Find out which countries are open to vaccinated travelers