Felicity Long
Felicity Long

As with nearly every aspect of the global response to the Covid pandemic, the vaccine rollout, both here and in Europe, has been a source of controversy. Should airlines and other travel companies require proof of vaccination before booking? Will EU countries require a Digital Green Pass for entry? Are we comfortable with vaccine records even being digitized, or is that a little too Big Brother?

At the same time, the CDC continually reminds us that, even with the robust vaccination efforts in the U.S., testing remains an important tool in the fight against Covid transmission.

Although these rules are frequently being updated and don’t apply to all situations, the CDC generally recommends that unvaccinated airline passengers get tested before departure, then again on arrival.

With that in mind, the possibility of offering antigen, or so-called rapid tests, at airports could make that requirement less onerous. 

In fact, IATA is hoping that the use of antigen tests, which are not only faster than PCR tests but also less expensive, will help spur travel recovery.

A recent IATA survey, carried out in conjunction with Oxera-Edge Health, calls first-class rapid tests “broadly comparable in accuracy.” The results prompted IATA’s director general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac to urge the EU and other governments to endorse them to fulfil the Covid-19 testing conditions.

“For governments, the top priority is accuracy,” de Juniac said. “But travelers will also need tests to be convenient and affordable. The Oxera-Edge Health report tells us that the best-in-class antigen tests can tick all these boxes. It’s important for governments to consider these findings as they make plans for a restart.” 

Schengen survey shows desire for travel

Interestingly, the majority of respondents of a SchengenVisaInfo.com survey conducted in March also rated testing on arrival as the most effective form of limiting the spread of the virus when traveling.

“Schengen” refers to the EU passport-free zone that covers most of the European countries -- 26 in all. These internal borders have been closed and reopened several times during the pandemic to stop its spread.

A whopping 95% of the 8,000-plus Schengen visa survey respondents -- all avid travelers from countries around the world who recorded their answers on the website -- report being eager and even desperate to hit the road as soon restrictions are lifted.

Nearly 90% are ready to ditch staycations for trips outside their own countries, and -- not surprisingly -- most are looking to reconnect with family and friends they haven’t seen in over a year.

And despite the hiccups in the vaccine rollout in Europe, respondents are mostly sanguine about the risks they think international travel would pose to their own safety.

They are less optimistic about whether the powers that be agree, however, with fewer than a third expressing hope that they will be able to embark on international travel at all this year.

As with any plans to travel in Europe, it’s important to follow CDC recommendations and stay abreast of State Department advisories and the EU’s requirements and protocols.

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