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New Alerts for EU-Bound Holiday Season Travellers

Reports of COVID infection rate spikes, growing objections to government lockdowns, and frustration with constantly changing vaccination passport rules are sparking recurring public protests throughout much of the European Union.

According to Schengen News, protestors in Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and Croatia are resisting enforced lockdowns of indoor restaurants, bars, ice cream shops, sporting events, museums, cinemas, and even private parties. Though most of the protests have been peaceful, some—particularly in the Netherlands—have led to material damage, violence, and arrests.

Consequently, Canadians planning holiday travel to Europe need to make doubly sure they have the proper documents, are thoroughly covered for COVID-related illnesses and trip cancellation expenses, and fully aware that individual countries in the EU can suddenly impose their own entry rules on travellers from other countries, as well as those within the EU.  

For example, effective November 22, Austria went into full lockdown on all non-essential activities through at least December 13. Until then, inbound travel has been halted. And in a move that may presage significant rule changes in other countries, Austria has cut down the validity period of vaccination certificates (passports) from 12 to nine months. This is Austria’s fourth lockdown since the start of the pandemic—a pattern seen in other EU countries.

Third booster shots may become mandatory

The European Union Commission has urged (though not mandated) all member states to heed the advice of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and impose nine-month limits on the validity of vaccine certificates and require WHO or ECDC–approved booster shots be made available to persons whose vaccination certificates approach the nine-month limit.  

The vaccines provided to Canadians and Americans fit within that requirement.

Here’s the takeaway for Canadians looking forward to European travel for the holiday season or beyond

The European Union, which encompasses 27 nations, is not a monolith. Member countries have ultimate control of their own borders, although they try to maintain some unanimity amongst themselves. They are, however, political entities, so differences of opinion and action are common.

Similarly, the 26 Schengen Area countries (which include non-EU members Iceland, Switzerland, Norway, and Lichtenstein) are also free to suspend common rules temporarily to deal with individual issues on the ground.

What that means for Canadian travellers is that you must know and comply with the entry-exit rules of the individual countries you’ll be visiting or through which you may be transiting, as well as the rules about current vaccine verifications required by those countries. And don’t forget to consult the travel advisories posted by Travel Canada.

Most important, you must know the benefits and the limitations of your travel insurance coverage in case of a medical emergency, whether or not you’re covered for COVID-related illness, whether your benefits meet the medical coverage requirements of the countries you’ll be visiting (many countries now require verification of adequate travel-medical insurance…your provincial coverage won’t do).

And, given the frequency of public unrest about changing government entry/exit rules, make sure you’re protected in case you have to cancel or rearrange your itinerary at the last moment. You want to get as much of your prepaid fees back as you can. Reliable advice from your travel insurance advisor is more important than ever.  

Don’t try to go it alone. This is not the time for heroics.

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