British travellers start the week facing significantly lower hurdles for overseas journeys – with the most popular nations for UK holidaymakers both easing rules.
On Saturday the requirement for fully vaccinated travellers from the UK to France to take a pre-departure test was abruptly lifted.
The French rule change was initially tweeted on Friday night, with too little warning to save tens of thousands of families from the cost and hassle of testing.
The French Embassy in London says: “Vaccinated people do not need to take any Covid-19 travel tests before they travel to France from the UK.” Visitors must still carry a “sworn declaration” certifying the absence of coronavirus symptoms and of any contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19 in the 14 days before departure.
But the French authorities say travellers aged over 18 and one month who had their full vaccine course over nine months ago also need a booster to be considered fully vaccinated.
In addition, unvaccinated travellers aged 12 to 17 must take an antigen test in the 48 hours prior to departure to France.
With many British families already on day three of their half-term holiday, Spain has dropped its controversial demand for travellers aged 12-17 to be fully vaccinated.
Until today, the Spanish authorities refused to accept proof of recovery or a negative Covid test from young visitors from the UK.
They can now take a molecular Covid test – either PCR or Lamp – within 72 hours of arrival in Spain.
The interior minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska Gomez, said in the official state bulletin: “In many countries it is difficult or impossible for people aged under 18 to obtain the vaccine.
“Consequently, it is considered appropriate to establish conditions specific to these people.”
The timing is too late for most families to rescue holiday plans for half-term trips to Spain.
The most radical changes have been made in Norway, where almost all travel and domestic restrictions have been dropped – and unvaccinated arrivals are treated exactly the same as those who have been jabbed.
No form-filling, testing, proof of vaccines or quarantine is required.
There is no need to wear a face covering, socially distance from others or go into isolation after testing positive for coronavirus.
Norway’s prime minister, Jonas Gahr Støre, said in a statement: “The Covid-19 pandemic is no longer a great threat to the health of most of us. The Omicron variant leads to far less severe illness, and the vaccines are protecting us well.
“We can return to normal everyday life.”
The prime minister said the decision was based on recommendations from the Norwegian health authorities. The infection rate in Norway is expected to rise, with a high rate of sick leave and more people in hospital.
“Many people will become infected in the weeks ahead, and we need to prepare for this,” the health minister, Ingvild Kjerkol, said. “However, we are able to handle the increase in the infection rate.”
Remaining entry restrictions, including the duty to complete entry registration and to produce a negative test prior to arrival, are being removed.
Testing before and after arrival in Svalbard will continue. Svalbard’s health service is limited, and its emergency preparedness is more vulnerable than on the mainland.