The mountain bike community is itching to get away to the Alps, to the mountains, beaches and bike parks across Europe. The media bounces from sensationalism to realism and it feels at least to us that it’s hard to know who is leading who, the Governments of the world, opinion polls or those that write the headlines...
So, time for a what we know update regarding travel to and from the continent for our UK clients. Our European friends look pretty safe as it stands, having tested the borders of France and Italy ourselves this week. There are two hurdles to your holiday from the UK this year, once these two are out of the way most of the other questions such as insurance, flights, transiting one country to get to the other, will be either null and void or the answer to the question will be very different to one given today. The UK government's traffic light system, and the French and Swiss government's mandatory quarantine on arrivals from the UK are what we have to muscle through.
Beach x bikes is still a possibility in 2021
Though France and Italy have not gone green in this latest update, recent figures in the two countries have been promising, France has dropped to 87 cases per 100,000 people and the 7 day average is now below 8,000. Those numbers may not sound great but they are a significant decrease in the weeks since the last lockdowns were lifted. Italy is even less than this and falling fast.
Portugal has been removed from the green list and onto amber, this will take effect from Tuesday June 8th. This is not great news, as the numbers haven’t increased dramatically in Portugal with 37 per 100,000 people and 546 average cases per day over 7 days. It is important to understand why this has been done. Concerns over variants, the resistance they may have to vaccines and the government wanting to stay on track for it’s June 21st date of lifting all covid restrictions. Is there politics involved? Maybe but that’s hear say really. Are we making assumptions about the governments actions? Yes, but we’ve been following this as closely as anyone and the measures from the UK do make political sense, travel and tourism is important but sticking to their timeline and getting the UK itself moving is probably more so given the bigger picture. We think, and hope this means there will be a wider re-opening in the next update. By this time numbers should have decreased dramatically across Europe while vaccination rates increase.
The vaccination rate in France and Italy is fast and climbing (yes the UK is doing better, that doesn’t mean that they are doing badly, only less fast in comparison). With the vaccine now available to all in France over 18, this rate will continue to climb.
Summary of Italian and French figures
- France infection rates - 87 per 100,000 people, 8,349 7 day average
- French vaccination rates - 26.2 million first doses and 12.1 million (17.2%) fully vaccinated
- Italy infection rates - 31 per 100,000 people, 2,741 7 day average
- Italian vaccination rates - 24.1 million 1 dose and 12.3 million (20.4%) fully vaccinated
Will this summer be a game of race to the ferry with borders closing while people are away? Maybe, but there is more sense to it now, and the 5 days given before Portugal's closure is in good time to make new arrangements should the worst happen. If the government follows the pattern of updating their green list it will be June 23rd for July 1st and July 14th for July 22nd that we will have more updates.
We just took a trip to Finale to see how it is down there, not too bad at all!
THE INDIAN VARIANT PROBLEM
France has imposed a 7 day quarantine on any arrivals from the UK. This has been put in place inline Germany and Austria, for fears of the Indian variant causing a problem on the continent. We know that it is not permitted to travel to France for a holiday while this is in place. We know what the acceptable reasons for travel are and unfortunately shredding turns on Le Pleney is not one. So until this is dropped, it supersedes the ‘would I travel under the UK’s amber restrictions’ question. We do not know how long this will be in place for, or what the parameters are for lifting it, or when any update will be made.
This could essentially be spun either way, positive or negative. It could be dropped next week or it could be in place for some time to come.
Italy has yet to impose such measures. At the moment you can enter Italy without quarantine, showing only a negative PCR or antigen test that is less than 48 hours old it does not matter which you show according to the Italians, but airlines may request a PCR and you should consult the up to date terms and conditions of the airline.
From Italy, there are currently no plans to impose restrictions on the British. However Italy does remain on the UK’s amber list, with a 7 day average of 3201 new infections and 37 infections per 100,000 people, positive numbers for Aosta and Finale Ligure this Summer and Autumn.
As we pressed send on this article news was breaking of an update to France’s traffic light system, which imposed a mandatory quarantine on Brits arriving. As of June 9th, this is being updated, with fully vaccinated travellers now exempt from any quarantine.
You must have had the second shot of the vaccine two weeks before travel in order to forgo the quarantine measures (four weeks if the vaccine was Johnson & Johnson).
The vaccine must be EMA approved, ie Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson. You must still present a negative test no less than 72 hours old to travel, this can be antigen or PCR.
If you are not fully vaccinated, at the moment the current rules still apply. A mandatory 7 day quarantine.
Fingers crossed we can welcome you to Morzine this summer
We’ve assembled some FAQ’s to help inform you of the situation heading into Summer, and what we know.
When will the French lift the quarantine on UK travellers?
We do not know, and we do not know what the benchmark is for them to decide, or when it will be reviewed. Due to the evolving nature of cases in the UK, it seems the French are taking a wait and see approach.
Can you travel to an amber country?
YES, you can travel to a country listed as amber. The Government advises against it, but it is not against the law to do so.
What kind tests do I need to travel?
Italy - Pre travel you will have to take a lateral flow or PCR test in the UK. Most airlines are asking for fit to fly certificates so if you are flying, take a PCR test, check with your airline what may or not be approved. If you are driving, Italy will allow entry with an antigen/lateral flow or molecular test, as long as it comes with a certificate (the kit tests do not come with this).
Officially, France is PCR only at the moment and has been for some time, though with the current restrictions in place we expect this to change, once lifted.
You will need another lateral flow or PCR test 48 hours before you return to the UK. The UK will allow entry with an antigen/lateral flow or molecular test, as long as it comes with a certificate. tests are readily available in Aosta and Finale Ligure. You should book an appointment, they take around 20 minutes and cost €30. To confirm, at present you do not need a PCR test to return to the UK. This is important as these tests take time to get the results back, and are harder to get to.
In France lateral flow tests are free and can be taken without an appointment at a pharmacy. You cannot get a PCR test at a local pharmacy (be careful where you get your information from), but you do not need a PCR test to return to the UK.
In the UK, assuming they are all negative, you will have to quarantine in your home for 10 days. You will need to take a government approved PCR test on day 2 and day 8. On day 10 you are done. You can take a further test on day 5, and if those results are negative you can end the quarantine when you receive them.
What test and when? I’m confused
In summary, the safest and most efficient option, based on todays information is;
- Before travel, in the UK, get a Government approved PCR test, 48 hours before departure.
(If you are flying this is likely necessary, if you are driving antigen maybe ok, but Government approved PCR covers all bases)
- Before leaving the country of your holiday, you can take an antigen, molecular or lateral flow test (same thing different name). You will need to get this from a facility that issues you with a piece of paper, valid for travel.
(This is all you need to return to the UK from France or Italy, you can get them in town centres at different delivery points, France is free, Italy is €30)
- When you return to the UK, you will need to take pre-booked, government approved PCR tests on day 2 and day 10 of your mandatory quarantine. You can buy a third testing kit, which you can take on day 5 to release early, should the result be negative.
Does all this apply even if I am vaccinated?
Yes, the same rules apply. From July 1st the EU will roll out it’s covid passport program, or ‘green pass’ enabling travel around the bloc for all member states that have signed up.
What happens if one of those tests are positive?
Pre Travel - Contact us and we will find a solution for you.
In Morzine - Plans are underway to deal with such circumstances.
In Italy - Plans are underway to deal with such circumstances.
On return to the UK - You would need to remain in quarantine for as long as it takes to get a negative result.
How likely am I to get Covid in France or Italy?
Of course a lot of this is down to you. Wash your hands, wear a mask, follow advice and you will have a much lower risk.
We will be putting all our protocols into place from last summer. We did not have a single issue and where possible we will be increasing safety procedures. See details HERE.
Will France be open and will Covid-19 effect the holiday?
It will be like last summer. The lifts, restaurants and bars will be open. There will be some social distancing rules and masks will be required. Compared to ‘normal’ it’s a little weird but we are all used to this now, it will feel like the UK, open and fun + signs and responsibilities.
We have just returned from Finale Ligure and it is normal life + masks. Restaurants and bars cannot have indoor seating and there is an 23h curfew, however this is due to be dropped next week.
Can I get travel insurance?
Yes, but you must check the policy wording to ensure it is correct. These insurers all provide varying levels of cover for travel to countries where FCO advice is not to travel, and for Covid-19 related expenses.
If you are concerned about insurance specifically for the mountain, Vieux Campeur offer an excellent year round policy for €25. This covers all mountain rescue and immediate medical expenses including repatriation. Find the policy HERE. If you would like an easy to follow sign up guide in English, email us and we’ll send it over. Alternatively open the browser in google Chrome and it will translate it for you. Policy questions should be directed to [email protected], who speak English and are very helpful. It takes around 5 - 10 minutes.
Will I be able to fly? Can I transit from Geneva?
At the moment no, because the Swiss have banned entry from the UK, so lets take the situation before the recent restrictions and work from that. Yes and yes. Whether your scheduled flight will take off is up to the airline, but the planes are flying. You will be able to transit Switzerland into France. Your negative covid test is all that is required.
The rules on return to the UK related to transit apply for the last 10 days of your trip. So if you leave a green country, but have spent time in an amber country, the amber rules apply. If you leave an amber country, but have spent time in a green country, the amber rules apply.
Switzerland is currently ahead of the curve relative to France so we would expect it to go green before France does. Switzerland does have a current ban on arrivals from the UK as well. Though it is a guess, it would be educated enough to consider this would be lifted in unison with France.
Full advice on transiting countries - GOV.UK
Swiss advice HERE
We are keeping everything crossed we can welcome you all to our destinations across Europe this summer, there’s still a good chance it’ll happen so don’t get too down in the dumps yet, go for a ride, we’ll get there! If Europe is just not possible for you this summer, our UK tours in Scotland are now available to book, get rowdy in the Golfie, Inners and Glentress or adventure into the highlands of Torridon!
Check out the links below if they take your fancy!