With Europe cautiously emerging from Covid, knowing the new terms under which we travel is essential, writes Jason Osborne
Following a 16 month hibernation, Europe is slowly emerging into the bright light of day once again. The member states are slowly, cautiously emerging from their isolation to a new world, one in which people are no less eager to fly to and fro.
For my own part, I can’t wait to get back out there. Having grown up in a hyper-connected world, in which it’s as easy for me to get to central Europe as to the other side of the county during rush hour (between two and three hours each, depending on conditions), the past year has been difficult for my generation in terms of the sudden restrictions on movement.
However, the governments of the EU have decided the state of the pandemic meets their criteria for the reintroduction of travel, albeit in a highly controlled, regulated manner. Their Digital Covid Certificate (DCC) is central to this, as essential now to passage between countries as a passport.
There’s been much talk about the return to travel in recent news, so a summary of where the country is currently at and what’s around the corner in terms of travel access and restrictions is worthwhile. It occurs to me that if I as a journalist have to research the current state of restrictions, the average person who doesn’t dabble as extensively in news probably doesn’t have much hope of knowing the ins and outs of the present situation. Time to rectify that!
The current state of travel to Ireland
The important thing to remember with regards to international travel is that you have two sets of rules to deal with – Ireland’s and whichever country you’re travelling to. To deal with Ireland’s first, there are a number of conditions that must be satisfied when entering the country:
– It is currently the law (as of July 15) that you should not travel to Ireland unless you have an essential reason for your journey.
– If you do have to travel to Ireland, you must have proof of a negative or ‘not detected’ Covid-19 Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test taken within 72 hours of your arrival into the country.
– It’s currently the law that you must quarantine when you arrive into Ireland – unless you’re travelling from Northern Ireland. Mandatory Hotel Quarantine (MHQ) is also in place for arrivals from certain countries.
– An online passenger locator form must be filled out when travelling to Ireland.
As mentioned, an “essential reason” is required for travel into Ireland at the moment, but what constitutes an essential reason? While it doesn’t include social visits, it may include: caring for children; caring for older or vulnerable people; exercising your legal right of access to a child; going to a court hearing; going to a funeral. These are the acceptable reasons for essential family travel, according to the Government.
Essential business travel means people whose presence in Ireland is critical to the functioning of a business.
Other essential reasons for travel include:
– To go to college or school if you have to be there in person.
– To go with a child or vulnerable person to school if they have to be there in person.
– To go to a medical or dental appointment, or to go to an appointment with someone you live with, or a vulnerable person.
– To seek essential or urgent medical, health or dental services, or to accompany someone you live with or a vulnerable person who needs essential service.
If you arrive into Ireland from another country, you have to fill out an online passenger locator form before you arrive.
You also have to fill out this form if you arrive in Ireland through Northern Ireland and were overseas in the 14 days before your arrival.
The information on the form may be used to contact you to check your location, or to contact you if there is a confirmed or suspected case of Covid-19 on whatever form of transport you took to Ireland.
From July 12, the paper version of the form was phased out, meaning that the passenger locator form is available only online, and must be filled out in in advance of travel to Ireland. You will be sent an email receipt, which you will have to show when boarding – it will be a pre-boarding requirement.
As of the time this paper went to print, these are were the rules in place with regards to travel to Ireland. However, come July 19, the EU DCC will change the state of travel in the EU for Irish citizens.
Digital Covid Certificate
From July 19, Ireland plans to operate the DCC for travel originating within the EU and EEA. These plans are still subject to the public health advice at the time, though.
The Covid certificate, which was previously titled the ‘Digital Green Certificate’ will be used to maintain control of travel within the EU during the Covid-19 pandemic.
It is proof that you have been either:
– Vaccinated against Covid-19
– Received a negative test
– Recovered from Covid-19 in the last six months
As a result, being vaccinated won’t be a pre-condition of travel. The certificate will contain only certain information pertinent to the pass, including your name, date of birth, date of issue, relevant information about your vaccine, test or recovery and an identifier number.
People arriving without a DCC will also need proof of a negative RT-PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival”
It will be available both electronically and in paper form, with both offering a QR code to avoid fraud.
To sum up, subject to the public health advice come July 19, if you arrive into Ireland with a DCC, you will no longer need to quarantine. If you have the DCC and have been fully vaccinated, there’ll be no need for an RT-PCR test either.
If you arrive with a DCC on the basis of a test other than an RT-PCR test, such as an antigen test, you will need proof of a negative RT-PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival. People arriving without a DCC will also need proof of a negative RT-PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival.
Children between seven and 18 who have not been vaccinated must also have a negative RT- PCR test.
As the name might suggest however, the EU DCC will only apply smoothly to travel in and around the European Union, as well as Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland. For travel from countries outside this zone, different procedures apply.
It is important to note in the Irish context that if you are fully vaccinated and having difficulty accessing your DCC, it is expected that a national call centre will be established to assist any and all inquiries.
Travel from outside the EU
From July 19, Ireland will roughly follow the EU approach to non-essential travel into the EU from third countries.
An “emergency brake” system will be applied to countries where a variant of concern “arises, and this will be coordinated at EU level to protect against the importation of variants.
If an emergency brake is applied to a country, the Government advice will be to avoid travel to that country.
If you’re arriving from outside the EU and no emergency brake has been applied and you have proof of vaccination, you will not need to do any travel-related testing or quarantine.
If you do not have valid proof of vaccination, however, you will be obliged to:
– Show evidence of a negative RT- PCR test result within 72 hours before your arrival
– Home quarantine
– Undergo post-arrival testing, which will be provided through the HSE
If you’re arriving from outside the EU and the emergency brake has been applied to the country you’re coming from, the rules will depend on whether you’ve been vaccinated or not
If you have proof of vaccination, you’ll need to:
– Show a negative result from a RT- PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival
– Home quarantine
– Undergo post-arrival testing – this will be provided through the HSE.
If you don’t have proof of vaccination, the steps remain the same, but it’s MHQ rather than home quarantine.
As can be seen, travel is not the simple thing it once was, but it’s a glimmer of hope where once there was none. I for one look forward to getting back out there towards the end of the summer.