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Could travel restrictions be brought back to curb the latest Covid wave?

Some governments are considering reviving mask mandates to slow the spread of new Omicron subvariants

Written by
Time Out contributors

We know, we know. A return to confusing, stressful Covid travel restrictions is pretty much the last thing anyone wants. But Covid cases are back on the rise, with some experts even saying countries could be on the brink of a new wave. So could travel restrictions return? Could we soon see some kind of return to a labyrinthine system of vaccine checks, testing, masks and quarantine?

Well, in truth, it seems very, very unlikely that most countries will reintroduce restrictions. The main Covid strains swirling around at the mo are Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, and while they’re believed to be much more contagious than previous Covid strains, their lethality remains much lower than earlier strains. This is largely due to high rates of immunity thanks to vaccination campaigns and people having previously caught the virus. 

So it looks unlikely that we’ll see a return to travel restrictions, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t see the return of some domestic Covid restrictions. Some countries are much more careful than others, with plenty of destinations still exercising caution about the spread of Covid. In parts of Spain, for instance, masks on public transport are still compulsory – and that rule may well soon be extended to include all indoor public spaces.

Amós García Rojas, a health official in the Canary Islands, said: ‘The pandemic is not gone. It is necessary to continue maintaining certain restrictions and care, perhaps in the obligation to wear a mask indoors, if the situation does not improve.’

The Costa del Sol is also reportedly considering reintroducing similar rules, while Germany could bring back some mask-wearing rules this autumn to curb the spread of the virus during Oktoberfest. Faced with pressures on its health system, Australia is also apparently considering a return to masks. The French government, on the other hand, has said it has no plans to reintroduce restrictions.

In other words, while it seems exceptionally unlikely that countries will return to a system of travel restrictions, it’s perfectly possible that domestic restrictions in some places could be reintroduced. Thankfully, a return to travel testing doesn’t seem to be on the cards. 

Of course, it’s worth bearing in mind that lots of countries still have restrictions in place, so it’s still good practice to thoroughly check all this stuff well in advance of your date of travel. 

ICYMI: British Airways is scrapping another 1,000 flights this summer.

Plus: here are 10 ways to make sure you avoid holiday hell this summer.

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