The EU has already had several painful experiences with border closures during the Corona pandemic. In the first phase, the barriers went down in March 2020, and last spring, countries like Germany again imposed travel restrictions on countries like Austria. Now, given the spread of the omicron variant, will restrictions on cross-border travel return as well?
Outgoing EU Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) expressed confidence on Tuesday morning in Brussels ahead of his final appearance among his European counterparts that there will be no renewed tightening of border controls within the EU. So far, countries such as Germany have imposed entry restrictions on people in southern Africa in light of the spread of Omikron. But with regard to possible additional intra-European entry restrictions, he added, "I don't see that today. I don't see the need for that either."
Rather, it is a matter of making a stronger distinction between vaccinated and non-vaccinated people in many areas of life, Spahn stressed. "This has nothing to do with vaccination bullying," Spahn further explained. He added that the excessive number of unvaccinated people could lead to an overload of health care services everywhere in the EU.
With the current entry regulations for EU countries, it actually already makes a difference whether one is vaccinated or not, even within the Schengen area. Those who have not been vaccinated or have recovered must usually present a negative PCR test. When entering Austria from another EU country, for example, the PCR test must not be older than 72 hours.
Requirements for returnees from high-risk countries
In the case of Germany, the distinction between vaccinated and non-vaccinated within the EU affects returnees from the high-risk countries of Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and the Czech Republic. In these cases, those who have not been vaccinated or recovered must go into quarantine for ten days. Free testing with a negative test is possible after five days at the earliest.
Spahn referred to the assessment of the EU's disease control agency ECDC, according to which Omikron will soon become the dominant Corona variant in Europe. This is expected to happen at the beginning of next year.