The Covid-19 pandemic remains highly active as we enter 2021, despite stringent containment measures widely introduced across many parts of the world in the last quarter. Cross-border mobility is at an historic low, and the prospects for the next few months remain extremely uncertain.
Unlike during the first lockdown last year, EU citizens can now move across countries in the bloc, but travelers still face major obstacles. These range from a mandatory negative viral test, to compulsory quarantine periods, to the dramatic decline in the number of flights available. The International Air Transport Association’s Travel Pass should assist passengers to navigate the jungle of country-specific requirements and restrictions and facilitate the exchange of information on the health status of travelers across countries, but fluid movement within the Schengen Area is unlikely to be restored until vaccines are widely available to the European population.
The second major difference now is that European countries appear to be making a greater effort to coordinate certain decisions, compared to during the first wave of the pandemic, when in March 2020 the EU seemed to be on the verge of dissolution. The EU-level recovery plan and the major role the European Commission has played in liaising with pharmaceutical companies to secure access to vaccines and roll out a mass vaccination campaign to eventually inoculate some 450 million people in 27 member states against Covid-19 have effectively reminded European governments of the importance of coordination.
This collaborative approach gives reason for optimism about the ability of European countries to rapidly dismantle the restrictions currently depriving their citizens of free movement within the Schengen Area once a substantial proportion of the population has been vaccinated.
...European countries appear to be making a greater effort to coordinate certain decisions, compared to during the first wave of the pandemic, when in March 2020 the EU seemed to be on the verge of dissolution.
Previously scheduled to come into effect in 2021, European authorities also recently announced that the European Travel Information and Authorization System (which will be used to keep track of visitors from countries who do not require a visa to enter the Schengen Area) will only be launched towards the end of 2022 and will not be mandatory until 2023.
European Travel Information and Authorization System, ETIAS. “When Will ETIAS Be Implemented: Start Date and More.” ETIAS, accessed November 30, 2020.
International Air Transport Association, IATA. “IATA Travel Pass.” IATA, accessed November 30, 2020.