Since the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world over two years ago, countless lives and jobs have been upended. One of the most affected industries has been international travel. Many people who have planned trips and pilgrimages to Europe and the Holy Land have been forced to wait and reschedule.
Tourists and other international travelers have found it confusing to keep up with the multitudinous regulations and rules that change seemingly overnight.
Finally, there is good news: the rules and restrictions are being rescinded. International travel is really opening up this time.
One of the top pilgrimage destinations for Catholics is Italy, with Rome and the Vatican and popular destinations such as Assisi and San Giovanni Rotondo.
Of all European countries, Italy has taken the most cautious approach to dealing with the pandemic. It has consistently been quicker to implement severe restrictions and slower to ease them.
As of March 1, the arrival rules have become simpler. For entry, any one of the following conditions will suffice: certificate of vaccination (2 doses with mRNA or one with J&J); certificate of recovery within the previous six months; or a negative test result, taken within 24 hours (antigen) or 48 hours (PCR) of arrival. (Previously, a negative test result was required with one of the other two.)
Also, anyone flying to or from Italy must wear an FFP2 mask, and all visitors must fill out an EU Digital Passenger Locator Form.
Additionally, the Italian government recently announced a “reopening decree,” spelling out the timeline for easing the country’s COVID restrictions.
The Green Pass (a QR Code issued by the health authority to Italian citizens and residents) required to enter most establishments will go away on April 30. This is proof that one has been fully vaccinated, recovered from COVID within the previous six months, or has had a negative COVID test within the previous 48 hours.
As it is required for all venues and services in Italy – including dining at bars and restaurants, hotels, public transport – and issued only to Italian and EU residents, it created confusion for tourists and proprietors alike. (For Americans, the CDC card is supposed to take its place.)
This is a big victory for those who work in the tourism and pilgrimage sector, and marks an important milestone in time for the start of the summer tourism season.
Similarly, the mask requirement in all indoor environments will also be rescinded at the end of April.
For official rules on current travel to Italy, visit the Italian Health Ministry website.
Israel and the Holy Land
Like Italy, Israel took a hardline approach to dealing with the pandemic. As recently as early December, Israel closed its borders to all non-citizens in an attempt to avoid contagions during the Omicron wave.
Now however, all tourists (regardless of whether vaccinated or not) from all countries will be able to travel to Israel. Vaccination is no longer a requirement to enter Israel.
Everyone flying to Israel must take a PCR test 72 before arrival and again on landing at the airport. Then, they must go straight to their hotel and quarantine for up to 24 hours until they receive a negative result. Since results usually arrive in 6-12 hours, the quarantine time is usually much less.
For official rules on current travel to Israel, visit the Israel Ministry of Health website.
Other EU countries
Other European Union countries are also in the process of lifting remaining COVID restrictions. In France, for example, masks and COVID passports are no longer required in almost all indoor venues as of March 14, while Germany is set to relax almost all measures on March 20. Ireland has abolished all COVID-19 entry restrictions from March 6. The U.K. scrapped its final COVID restrictions on March 18.
For an updated list on travel to all countries around the world, visit this helpful website.
The United States
Lastly, there remains the final hurdle of the United States. For Americans traveling abroad, there is a requirement that all passengers entering the U.S. – whether U.S. citizens, residents, or visitors – present a negative COVID test taken within one calendar day prior to departure.
For more on travel to the United States, visit the US State Department’s website.
With so many changes, even for the better, it remains a necessity for those traveling internationally to have trip insurance that covers unanticipated expenses related to COVID.