New research has shown that EU travel restrictions had little or no impact on the spread of Omicron, prompting calls for their removal.

Undertaken in Finland and Italy by Oxera and Edge Health, the research found that pre-departure testing requirements are likely to be ineffective at stopping or even limiting the spread of the Omicron variant. The analysis of testing restrictions imposed by Italy and Finland on 16 December and 28 December 2021, respectively, on all incoming travellers made no distinguishable difference to transmission of Omicron cases in those countries. Conversely, the impact of these restrictions, and in particular the limitations to the free movement of people, resulted in significant and unnecessary economic hardship – not just for the travel and tourism sectors and their workforce, but for the whole European economy.

Crucially, the report also shows that maintaining pre-departure testing requirements for vaccinated/recovered travellers further will have no impact whatsoever on the future spread of the Omicron variant in Italy and Finland. It found that imposing these restrictions earlier would not have stopped its spread nor significantly limited it in Italy and Finland.  
New rules for intra-EU/EEA travel come into force today – anyone travelling from within the bloc will need only a basic ‘green pass’ health certificate, which can be obtained via vaccination, recovery, or a recent negative Covid test, and will remove the need for self-isolation. ACI Europe and IATA are urging those countries which continue to deviate from the common EU framework to rapidly align with it. Specifically, the organisations have called upon the governments of Austria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Malta to address this issue as a matter of urgency.

In addition, said the organisations, there are no compelling reasons why vaccinated/recovered travellers should be subjected to a different regime whether they travel within the EU/EEA or come from other countries. It is now urgent that the EU Council aligns its outdated recommendation for travel into the EU (from third countries) with the new regulations, they stressed.