In spite of the Delta variant surge, Europe is re-opening to travelers from the United States—but it is enjoyed best if you are fully-vaccinated—i.e. two weeks after the second Pfizer or Moderna shot and four weeks after the single J&J shot. At Knee Deep Into History, we have received two good field updates from travelers, and we want to share their experiences with readers. We are also providing additional information to help readers prepare. HOWEVER, WE CAUTION READERS THAT THINGS CHANGE FAIRLY QUICKLY; SO MAKE SURE TO STAY UP-TO-DATE REGARDING TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS.
Fully-vaccinated Traveler One wrote in late July: “I just returned from eight days in France. At this time, the US is considered a “green country” and, as such, entry into France falls under the lowest restriction level. Fully vaccinated travelers (2 weeks post Pfizer/Moderna second shot and 1 month post J&J) can enter the country with the CDC-issued vaccination card. The card is presented when checking into the flight. It is also checked by French immigration officials upon entry into France. Non-vaccinated Americans can enter France with a negative PCR test but must quarantine for 7 days. [Update: At the time of this writing there is no quarantine requirement, but travelers must present a negative test.] At the time I was in France, masks were not required outside, but were required on public transportation and upon entering a restaurant or other place of business. Starting 21 July, people must present a “health pass” with a QR code (aka Digital Green Certificate) that shows full vaccination or a PCR test to enter museums and other cultural venues. Beginning 1 August, the “health pass” must also be shown to enter a restaurant or to shop in stores. The problem with this is that, at this time, there is no pathway for US Visitors to obtain a QR code through the French system.” Traveler One subsequently added that some pharmacies around Paris will upload American information into the French database, allowing a QR code to be generated.
Fully-vaccinated Traveler Two, who is currently in France, flew to CDG via American Airlines / British Airways. He indicated that American Airlines encourages use of the VeriFLY App. With it, he was able to easily upload his CDC certificate, print out all required documents to enter France and receive a barcode (presumably on his phone.) In fact, he made it through immigration in less than two minutes, being at the front of the line. He read in a travel blog that an AA gate agent stated it could take up to 45 minutes to have documents checked, for passengers not using VeriFLY.
With regards to the Digital Green Certificate, he was told by two different local French pharmacies on the Somme that, at the present time, the DGC is only available to Europeans. That said, he has had no problem entering restaurants, museums, etc. by presenting his US CDC Vaccination Card.
Airlines’ Travel Information
Based on the above information, a good starting point regarding travel restrictions and necessary documentation to travel internationally is the airlines’ websites. They are not always as clearly organized as one would I would have expected, so feel free to search their websites using terms like “VeriFLY,” “packable test kits,” “Covid-19” and “know before you go.” Starting points for some airlines are shown below:
American Airlines “Preparation for international travel” section directs you to https://www.iatatravelcentre.com (International Air Transport Association). Also look at https://www.aa.com/i18n/travel-info/covid-19-testing.jsp.
Useful Government Websites
We also continue to monitor governmental information sites of various countries regarding the latest travel requirements. One should read them carefully, and the data is not always presented as clearly as one would like. For example, one might expect the Re-open Europe website to provide a current list of “green,” “orange” and “red” countries, because it is the EU that has encouraged its member countries to adopt the color-ranking system with regards to allowing travel from outside countries. But that would make it too obvious and less bureaucratic. (A little sarcasm here.) The French website does list the “green” and “red” countries (including the “green” United States at this time). It then states that the “orange” countries are countries not in either of the two lists.
The photo below shows the NY Times worldwide vaccination tracking rates in the United States, United Kingdom and four countries in Western Europe as of 2 August.
Looking at the graph, readers can see that Western Europe’s full vaccination rate has been catching up rapidly to the U.S. and UK as fear of the Delta variant has spread and as governments make it more difficult for the unvaccinated to engage in public or social activities.
Headlines in early August suggested that 70% of American adults have now received at least one vaccine shot. That is not reflected in the above chart, because the percentages are based on the entire population and the chart captures those who have received both shots.
Returning to the US
The CDC requires returning Americans to get tested no more than three days before their return flight departs for the U.S. and to present proof of a negative result before boarding the plane. Full details can be found on this CDC website:
There are three options for this. The first option is to find a test company in-country. Airlines will have some of them listed on their websites. Hotels might also be able to provide the names of local test sites. One must be mindful that the turnaround time is generally 18 – 24 hours. One of our travelers stated that tests cost about 50 Euros in France.
The second option is to have a rapid test done at the airport. Details can likely be found on airlines’ and airports’ websites. One should build in an expected 1-2 hour turnaround time for this option, and this seems to cut it close if something goes wrong.
The third option is to purchase and bring packable test kits with on the flight. IT APPEARS THAT THESE MUST BE PURCHASED IN THE USA PRIOR TO TRAVEL. Within three days of return, one performs the test and, with the wonders of internet technology, transmits the data to the lab company, which then prepares the necessary paperwork. Three such packable kits are listed on American Airlines’ website from Qured, eMed and Optum. As one might expect, these tests are not cheap, but they are convenient.
We encourage readers to make digital copies on their CDC vaccination card and to have them on their phones, tablets and laptops—just in case the original vaccination card is lost.
Whether you are getting knee deep into history with us or traveling to Europe on your own, we hope the insights in this article will help you. Bon Voyage!
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