23 December 2021, by Victoria Séveno
In order to limit the spread of the new Omicron variant, Austria has announced an entry ban for anyone from the Netherlands who is yet to receive their booster shot. The ban comes into effect on Saturday.
Austrian government bans “un-boosted” holidaymakers
The Austrian government announced the ban on Wednesday afternoon, in the hopes that the measure would stop the Omicron variant from spreading too widely in Austria. From Saturday, December 25, anyone travelling from the Netherlands to Austria must be able to present proof that they have received their booster shot, as well as a recent negative PCR test. They will also be required to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival.
The decision comes as winter sports enthusiasts across the Netherlands prepare to head off on their skiing holidays. While some decided to cancel their trips, others rushed to leave the country in the hopes that they’d make it across the Austrian border before the new rules come into effect on Christmas. The Austrian tourism industry has expressed frustration with the new rules, while Dutch travel organisations TUI and Sunweb have said customers will be eligible to receive a refund for their travel costs.
Omicron continues to spread across Europe
It’s not yet known how long the entry restrictions will remain in place. The new rules also apply to travellers from the UK, Norway, and Denmark – all countries where the Omicron variant is quickly becoming the dominant COVID-19 strain. According to NOS, Austria has confirmed at least 450 cases of Omicron so far.
This week, chairperson of the National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM) and the Outbreak Management Team (OMT), Jaap van Dissel, told the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) that the Omicron variant was already responsible for between 10 and 15 percent of COVID-19 infections in the Netherlands.
Dutch government and EU adjust rules for international travel
Meanwhile, the Dutch government has lifted the southern African travel ban. The flight ban came into effect on November 26 following the discovery of Omicron by doctors in South Africa, and applied to travellers from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
While the Dutch entry ban will expire at midnight on December 23, an EU entry ban for travellers from very high-risk areas remains in place, and this week the Dutch government announced new entry requirements for non-Schengen / non-EU travellers.
In addition to this, the European Commission has confirmed a slight tightening of the travel rules for EU citizens and residents. As Health Minister Hugo de Jonge had announced earlier this month, the EU Digital COVID-19 Certificate for vaccinated travellers who have not received a booster shot will expire after nine months as of February 1.