10th June 2021
With countries around the world adopting different rules and guidelines for people travelling to their territories to halt the spread of the Coronavirus and safeguard public health, it is important to know what the latest travel restrictions are. Whether needing proof of a negative test, having to stay in a quarantine hotel, which red list country to avoid or if curfews mean staying and working from home, international contractors must be aware of the latest restrictions introduced by local authorities.
We start with the first important piece of news regarding the ‘go live’ from 1st June of the EU’s digital COVID certificate in seven countries: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia and Poland. These nations have started to issue certificates or passports, which can be checked via the gateway. An EU press release read, “Today, the EU Digital COVID Certificate has reached another important milestone with the go-live of the technical system at EU level, which allows verifying certificates in a secure and privacy-friendly way.”
Currently still a provisional agreement, the regulation itself for countries to adopt digital passports comes into effect on 1st July. Member states will then have six weeks to set themselves up on the system and start issuing certificates in preparation for the summer travel exodus. Thierry Breton, the EU Commissioner for the Internal Market was delighted with the early adoption. Urging other countries to follow suit, he commented, “The timely preparation will allow the full system to be up and running by July 1st – when the proposal enters into application and the EU will be on time to open up again this summer.”
Switzerland, a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) has also entered the pilot phase, with all its 26 cantons starting to issue certificates from 7th June, joining the other 22 countries that have tested the gateway since May. Closely monitored by the country’s Federal Office of Information Technology, Systems and Telecommunication (FOITT), the gateway will undergo rigorous testing carried out by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) as well as other authorities and experts in the field. The FOITT’s development team will then make recommendations based on the findings of the NCSC and others.
As for the lifting of restrictions in the country, Switzerland already removed the requirement to quarantine for those who have been vaccinated or have recovered from the virus. However, the new rules only apply to certain Europe Medicines Agency (EMA) approved vaccines such as Pfizer, Moderna, Astra Zeneca and Johnson & Johnson. Travellers from high risk countries, even if they’ve received both vaccinations, will still be subject to quarantine regulations.
The Swiss nationals eligible for certificates, which will be available on smartphones or in paper format, as is the case for those travelling into the country, must have received an EMA approved vaccine, recovered from the virus or have a negative test result. A press release clarified government guidance and its stance regarding the location where certificates are issued, stating that “The certificate should be issued at the place where the person has been tested or vaccinated. Data on vaccination, recovery and test status will be kept only at this place and by the person concerned”.
Latest travel update for international contractors
As of 31st May, neighbouring states Hungary and Moldova have in the words of Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó decided on a “mutual acceptance of certificates and unimpeded travel” for citizens of both countries. Hungary had followed in the footsteps of many other EU states and began bilateral negotiations with other countries open to this form of agreement. This has led to similar arrangements with a number of other countries, including Turkey, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Montenegro and Bahrain. The certificate is similar to the EU’s COVID digital passport.
The certificate will be issued to all Hungarian citizens who have received both their vaccine shots, and will include details of the date of the second vaccination. Given that there is no information as yet as to the duration of length of the vaccine’s efficacy, there will be no expiry date. Hungarian nationals and those of the countries in question will therefore be able to travel restriction free. And with over five million citizens – over half the population – now having received both jabs, the country is likely to dispense with its curfew and obligatory mask wearing requirement. An app with a person’s digital immunity certificate was also recently launched.
Elsewhere in Europe, Malta now requires a certificate or negative test result taken in the last 72 hours as of 1st June for those looking to enter the Mediterranean archipelago. Those who do not provide this evidence will have to undergo an obligatory PCR test and/or have to self-isolate upon arrival and will also have to provide a passenger locator form (PCF). The travel ban for red zone countries remains.
The government in The Netherlands is now allowing passengers to enter from high risk countries such as India and South Africa since the start of June. However, these travellers must provide a negative PCR test within the last 72 hours (or 24 hours for a rapid antigen test) before boarding and then quarantine for 10 days. This can be reduced if a negative test result is produced after five days. For those who don’t follow the quarantine rules, the government has imposed a fine of €435.
Stay up to date on the latest travel restrictions and tax compliance
With many people still wearing masks and social distancing while still awaiting their vaccination, public health authorities across the EU are still very cautious about the spread of COVID variants and people testing positive. There is still a lot of essential work to be done in terms of vaccine rollout with citizens in many countries still being advised to stay at home.
For contractors looking to travel to the UK or EU, being up to date and informed on all tax compliance measures should remain a key priority. If you need advice, get in touch with our tax and legal compliance experts.