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COVID-19 VACCINES

UPDATE: UK says European travellers with mixed Covid doses do now count as ‘fully vaccinated’

After much confusion, criticism and contradictory messages the UK government has discreetly changed its Covid border rules - meaning that those vaccinated in Europe with mixed doses are considered fully inoculated and therefore can avoid quarantine.

UPDATE: UK says European travellers with mixed Covid doses do now count as 'fully vaccinated'
Photo: Ben Fathers / AFP

The UK government has updated its information regarding its new Covid border rules for England (Devolved countries Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland may announce different policies) after complaints that its policy towards those with mixed vaccine doses was confusing.

This week British embassies have published information to say the UK would accept those with mixed Covid doses (for example one dose of AstraZeneca and one Pfizer) as fully vaccinated from October 4th even though the UK’s Department of Health and Social care insisted to The Local that there was no change in policy.

After repeated demands for clarity on behalf of our readers the government has discreetly updated its website with new information that confirms the mixed doses administered in Europe are now acceptable from now on.

In other words travellers who have had one dose of AstraZeneca and then a Pfizer or Moderna second dose, don’t have to wait until October 4th. They are considered fully vaccinated from now and can therefore avoid quarantine.

There wasn’t any apparent good news for those who have had Covid and then one dose of the vaccine – as is standard practice in many European countries. It still appears the UK considers this group of people as not fully vaccinated for the purpose of entry, although The Local has asked for clarification.

Here’s a summary of what the UK government’s new rules are for travel to England regarding mixed doses:

  • From 4am Monday 4th October, you will qualify as fully vaccinated if you are vaccinated either under an approved vaccination programme in the UK, Europe or USA.
  • Where 2 doses of a vaccine are required for a full course, you will be able to mix 2 different types of vaccine, for example Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna

  • You will be able to have the 2 vaccinations under 2 different approved programmes, for example Australia and Japan, UK and USA, EU and Canada.

  • The government also states: “Until 4 October, mixed vaccines are only permitted if you are vaccinated under the UK, Europe, USA or UK overseas vaccination programme.”

Previously the UK had not accepted those with mixed doses as being fully vaccinated, which caused much anger among travellers from Europe.

One reader told The Local: “My partner, a British national with mixed vaccines, feels like a second class citizen and hasn’t seen her family since December 2019.”

In several European countries the mixing of Covid vaccines has been quite widespread, particularly for those who had a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine before guidelines on its use in individual countries changed – German chancellor Angela Merkel and French health minister Olivier Véran were among those who had mixed doses.

The UK is also changing its much-criticised entry rules from October 4th.

Vaccinated travellers heading from European countries to the England should take note of the following changes:

  • The UK has scrapped its “amber” list which contained most European countries. It now has just a reduced red list and then the “rest of the world” which currently contains European countries.
  • Vaccinated travellers from those countries not on the red list will not need to undertake pre-departure tests for travel to England (previously those travelling from European countries needed a PCR or antigen/lateral flow test within 72 hours of travel. This measure will be applicable from October 4th a 4am.
  • Those arriving in England from a non-red country will still need a test on day two of arrival, but it can be the cheaper lateral flow tests rather than the expensive PCR tests which previously needed to be reserved and paid for in advance of travel. This measure will come into force “later in October”. It was not clear whether these would have to be paid for and reserved in advance.
  • If you qualify as fully vaccinated you will have to: book and pay for a day 2 COVID-19 test – to be taken after arrival in England, complete your passenger locator form – any time in the 48 hours before you arrive in England, take a COVID-19 test on or before day 2 after you arrive in England

  • The UK says “you must be able to prove that you have been fully vaccinated (plus 14 days) with a document (digital or paper-based) from a national or state-level public health body that includes, as a minimum:

  • forename and surname(s)
  • date of birth vaccine brand and manufacturer
  • date of vaccination for every dose (Note that most vaccination certificates only contain the date of the second injection. We haven’t heard of this being a problem)
  • country or territory of vaccination and/or certificate issuer

Travellers who are not vaccinated must continue to quarantine in England or 10 days as well as take pre-departure tests and tests on day 2 and day 8 after arrival.

If you have any questions regarding travel from Europe to the UK please email us at [email protected]

Member comments

  1. Great news, but…a question from one of the quarter million Canadians who received Astra Zeneca Covishield…
    Is it accepted under these new rules?

      1. Thank you, fellow reader. Things are changing so quickly… Now wondering about acceptance of mixed doses. Am continuing to dive into the documents to clarify this. The Local is of enormous help by providing clear answers and links. Grazie!

  2. It says the proof must include: country or territory of vaccination and/or certificate issuer.

    I don’t see this listed on the certificate in TousAntiCovid app. Does that mean we need to carry the two paper/barcode sheets which do seem to have this?

    1. I expect that this is the EU DCC equivalent QR code? If so, try to download the Corona Warn or CovPass apps used in Germany. Scan the QR code in that and this shows you the issuing country as well.

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TRAVEL NEWS

‘Double processing time’: Austria and Germany fear non-EU travellers face border delays

Germany, Austria and another of other countries in Europe's Schengen area admit they fear delays and insufficient time to test the process ahead of new, more rigorous EU border checks that will be introduced next year, a new document reveals.

'Double processing time': Austria and Germany fear non-EU travellers face border delays

Schengen countries are tightening up security at the external borders with the introduction of a new digital system (EES) to record the entry and exit of non-EU citizens in May 2023.

The EES will enable the automatic scanning of passports replacing manual stamping by border guards. It will register the person’s name, type of the travel document, biometric data (fingerprints and facial images) and the date and place of entry and exit. The data will be kept in a centralised database on a rolling three-year basis that is re-set at each entry. 

What the EES is intended to do is increase border security, including the enforcement of the 90-day short-stay limit for tourists and visitors. EU citizens and third-country nationals who reside in a country of the Schengen area will not be subject to such checks.

READ ALSO: Foreigners living in EU not covered by new EES border checks

But given its scale, the entry into operation of the system has been raising concerns on many fronts, including the readiness of the physical and digital infrastructure, and the time required for border checks, which could subsequently cause massive queues at borders.

A document on the state of preparations was distributed last week by the secretariat of the EU Council (the EU institution representing member states) and published by Statewatch, a non-profit organisation that monitors civil liberties.

The paper contains the responses from 21 member states to a questionnaire about potential impacts on passenger flows, the infrastructure put in place and the possibility of a gradual introduction of the new system over a number of months.

This is what certain the countries have responded. Responses from Denmark, Spain and Sweden do not appear in the report but the answers from other countries will be relevant for readers in those countries.

READ ALSO: What the EU’s new EES border check system means for travel

‘Double processing time’

Austria and Germany are the most vocal in warning that passport processing times will increase when the EES will become operational.

“The additional tasks resulting from the EES regulation will lead to a sharp increase in process times”, which are expected to “double compared to the current situation,” Austrian authorities say. “This will also affect the waiting times at border crossing points (in Austria, the six international airports),” the document continues.

“Furthermore, border control will become more complicated since in addition to the distinction between visa-exempt and visa-required persons, we will also have to differentiate between EES-required and EES-exempt TCN [third country nationals], as well as between registered and unregistered TCN in EES,” Austrian officials note.

Based on an analysis of passenger traffic carried out with the aviation industry, German authorities estimate that checking times will “increase significantly”.

France expects to be ready for the introduction of the EES “in terms of passenger routes, training and national systems,” but admits that “fluidity remains a concern” and “discussions are continuing… to make progress on this point”.

Italy is also “adapting the border operational processes… in order to contain the increased process time and ensure both safety and security”.

“Despite many arguments for the introduction of automated border control systems based on the need for efficiency, the document makes clear that the EES will substantially increase border crossing times,” Statewatch argues.

‘Stable service unlikely by May 2023’

The border infrastructure is also being adapted for collecting and recording the data, with several countries planning for automated checks. So what will change in practice?

Austria intends to install self-service kiosks at the airports of Vienna and Salzburg “in the course of 2023”. Later these will be linked to existing e-gates enabling a “fully automated border crossing”. Austrian authorities also explain that airport operators are seeking to provide more space for kiosks and queues, but works will not be completed before the system is operational.

Germany also plans to install self-service kiosks at the airports to “pre-capture” biometric data before border checks. But given the little time for testing the full process, German authorities say “a stable working EES system seems to be unlikely in May 2023.”

France will set up self-service kiosks in airports, where third-country nationals can pre-register their biometric data and personal information before being directed to the booth for verification with the border guard. The same approach will be adopted for visitors arriving by bus, while tablet devices such as iPads will be used for the registration of car passengers at land and sea borders.

Italy is increasing the “equipment of automated gates in all the main  airport” and plans to install, at least in the first EES phase, about 600 self-service kiosks at the airports of Rome Fiumicino, Milan Malpensa, Venice and in those with “significant volumes of extra-Schengen traffic,” such as Bergamo, Naples, Bologna and Turin.

Switzerland, which is not an EU member but is part of the Schengen area, is also installing self-service kiosks to facilitate the collection of data. Norway, instead, will have “automated camera solutions operated by the border guards”, but will consider self-service options only after the EES is in operation.

Gradual introduction?

One of the possibilities still in consideration is the gradual introduction of the new system. The European Commission has proposed a ‘progressive approach’ that would allow the creation of “incomplete” passenger files for 9 months following the EES entry into operation, and continuing passport stamping for 3 months.

According to the responses, Italy is the only country favourable to this option. For Austria and France this “could result in more confusion for border guards and travellers”. French officials also argue that a lack of biometric data will “present a risk for the security of the Schengen area”.

France suggested to mitigate with “flexibility” the EES impacts in the first months of its entry into service. In particular, France calls for the possibility to not create EES files for third-country nationals who entered the Schengen area before the system becomes operational, leaving this task to when they return later.

This would “significantly ease the pressure” on border guards “during the first three months after entry into service,” French authorities said.

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