Are Europe Travel Restrictions Really Over? What We Learnt During Covid

Since Europe first implemented travel restrictions relating to Covid-19, it has been an incredibly eventful two years in the world of travel (sometimes just in terms of how uneventful it was).

But with France’s removal of all travel restrictions and testing requirements since 1 August, there are now only a handful of travel restrictions in place to enter a few European countries.

So, what did we learn as travelers? And are any of these restrictions and policies going to stick?

Passports lost (a little bit of) their superpowers.

Government’s reacted differently to the pandemic which varied the shape of lockdowns and the longer-term outcomes around the world. In some instances, that meant the value of holding certain passports dropped—according to the Henley Passport Index, the power of the U.S. passport, for instance, dropped to 7th place during the pandemic.

Mounting bureaucracy is one of the best ways to ensure people stay put.

It was incredibly complicated to work out individual government’s restrictions. Each time a restriction was brought in or a rule changed, in some cases, governments simply announced that the previous measure had been revoked.

When government’s brought old changes back, they wrote that the new measure revoking the old measure had been revoked, and so on. By the fifteenth change, who knew what the rules were? But maybe that’s the point—the more confusing the rules, the more people stayed away and stopped traveling.

Governments can form effective, unified border controls, but they take time.

It takes a long time to create uniform and unified measures at neighboring borders, such as across the EU, but they do work and they are effective.

The EU Digital Covid Certificate (EUDCC) was put into place on 1 July 2022 across all European countries, helping freer movement of EU citizens within its borders during a pandemic.

Travel restrictions can come back in as quickly as they went out.

Most EU countries have left contingency measures in place to “apply the brakes” quickly, as and when necessary, and without having to go back to ratify measures in parliament—France is the latest country to leave these powers in place as it comes out of its state of emergency.

The pandemic has been a dry run for how governments can curb travel in the future.

Governments could try curbing our movements to reduce cheap travel and reduce climate emissions. And travel restrictions may need to come back to manage climate change or (related) extreme weather conditions.

Whether travelers are for or against such an idea, it’s clear that governments now have a template to take action.

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