Do Brits living in Italy still have to quarantine on trips to the UK?

The British government on Thursday announced a relaxation of its quarantine rules for fully vaccinated travellers - but not for most Brits who live abroad.

Do Brits living in Italy still have to quarantine on trips to the UK?
Vaccinated English holidaymakers can now skip quarantine when returning home, but what about Brits living abroad? Photo: Iakovos HATZISTAVROU/AFP

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced on Thursday that, from July 19th, people visiting amber list countries including Italy would no longer have to quarantine on arrival back in England, as long as they were fully vaccinated.

However this exemption is not extended to the majority of UK nationals who live in Italy.

UPDATE: What rules do European countries have for travellers from the UK?

They will still have to quarantine when visiting friends or family in the UK, even if they are fully vaccinated.

Shapps said the exemption was for “residents returning to England”.

The Department for Transport confirmed to The Local that this exemption is for anyone who was vaccinated in the UK or part of a UK clinical trial on vaccines.

This means that any UK nationals living in Italy who had their jabs in Britain can travel quarantine-free. 

However, those vaccinated in Italy will still face a 10-day quarantine if they want to travel to the UK to visit friends and family, as well as needing to pay around £160 for the compulsory travel testing package.

How do Brits in Italy feel about this?

British citizens resident in Italy and other countries reacted with anger and dismay to the news that they would not be exempt from the UK’s quarantine requirement, describing the decision to exclude them as “unfair” and “very hard to understand’.

“I’m just frustrated by all these twists and turns and the rule changes. I haven’t been home in two years, my mum and aunt are elderly, my godmother is very sick with cancer, but I am constantly trapped in this heart versus head decision,” said Emma Raymond in Bologna.

“It’s been the hardest year and this is just awful. I’ve played by every rule, I’ve been vaxxed. But it doesn’t seem to make a difference.”

Some pointed out that they were reluctant to travel home due to the costs and the rising infection rate in England.

“To be honest, I don’t feel England has the pandemic under control either with rising numbers and large crowds gathering without masks which makes me even more anxious,” said Freya in Rome, who has not been back to the UK for two years.

“Whilst I’m desperate to see my family, in September my sister is getting married, it has to be safer, cheaper and without the heavy quarantine period.”

There was added frustration for British nationals in Italy following the news on Wednesday that UK authorities had also agreed to let up to 1,000 football fans travel quarantine-free from Italy to London for Sunday’s Euro 2020 final.

“This is so unfair, I am waiting to be able to go and see my family who I haven’t seen in over 18 months without quarantining, but they’re letting football fans in – what a joke,” said reader Stacey Incardona on Facebook.

What are Italy’s rules on travel from the UK?

As of June 21st, Italy requires arrivals from the UK to quarantine for five days on arrival and show two negative coronavirus test results.

People who were vaccinated in Italy can travel anywhere within the EU or Schengen zone using the EU digital vaccine passport. 

The UK is not currently part of the scheme, but talks are ongoing to allow mutual recognition of vaccine passports between the EU and the UK.

READ ALSO: How should travellers from the UK quarantine in Italy?

A European Commission source told The Local: “When it comes to the UK, the talks are ongoing at the technical level and are progressing well and going in the right direction. This is in particular because technically speaking the EU’s and the UK’s architectures are aligned.”

Italy meanwhile is already allowing travellers from the US, Canada and Japan to enter the country under the terms of the EU digital passport scheme.

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EU extends Covid travel certificates until 2023

The EU has announced that its Covid travel certificate will be extended until 2023 - so what does this mean if you have a trip planned this year?

EU extends Covid travel certificates until 2023

Cleaning up the phone and thinking of getting rid of that Covid app? Just wait a minute. 

The European Union has decided to extend the use of EU Covid certificates by one year, until June 30th 2023. 

The European Commission first made the proposal in February as the virus, and the Omicron variant in particular, was continuing to spread in Europe. At that point it was “not possible to determine the impact of a possible increase in infections in the second half of 2022 or of the emergence of new variants,” the Commission said. 

Now tourism is taking off again, while Covid cases are on the rise in several European countries.

So the EU has taken action to ensure that travellers can continue using the so-called ‘digital green certificates’ in case new restrictions are put in place after their initial deadline of June 30th, 2022. 

What is the EU ‘digital green certificate’?

If you have travelled within the EU in the last year, you have probably already used it.

On 1st July 2021, EU countries started to introduce the ‘digital green certificate’, a Covid pass designed by the European Commission to facilitate travel between EU member states following months of restrictions.

It can be issued to EU citizens and residents who have been vaccinated against Covid, have tested negative or have recovered from the virus, as a proof of their health status. 

Although it’s called a certificate, it isn’t a separate document, it’s just a way of recognising all EU countries’ national health pass schemes.

It consists of a QR code displayed on a device or printed.

So if you live in an EU country, the QR code issued when you were vaccinated or tested can be scanned and recognised by all other EU countries – you can show the code either on a paper certificate or on your country’s health pass app eg TousAntiCovid if you’re in France or the green pass in Italy. 

Codes are recognised in all EU 27 member states, as well as in 40 non-EU countries that have joined the scheme, including the UK – full list here.

What does the extension of certificates mean? 

In practice, the legal extension of the EU Covid pass does not mean much if EU countries do not impose any restrictions.

It’s important to point out that each country within the EU decides on its own rules for entry – requiring proof of vaccination, negative tests etc so you should check with your country of destination.

All the EU certificate does is provide an easy way for countries to recognise each others’ certificates.

At present travel within the EU is fairly relaxed, with most countries only requiring negative tests for unvaccinated people, but the certificate will become more relevant again if countries impose new measures to curb the spread of the virus. 

According to the latest data by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, countries such as France, Portugal and parts of Italy and Austria are in the red again. 

The EU legislation on the certificate neither prescribes nor prohibits such measures, but makes sure that all certificate holders are treated in the same way in any participating country. 

The EU certificate can also be used for access to venues such as bars and restaurants if countries decided to re-impose health or vaccines passes on a domestic basis.

So nothing changes?

In fact, the legislation introduces some changes to the current certificates. These include the clarification that passes issued after vaccination should reflect all doses administered, regardless of the member state where the inoculation occurred. This followed complaints of certificates indicating an incorrect number of vaccine doses when these were received in different countries.

In addition, new rules allow the possibility to issue a certificate of recovery following an antigen test and extend the range of uthorised antigen tests to qualify for the green pass. 

To support the development and study of vaccines against Covid, it will also be possible to issue vaccination certificates to people participating in clinical trials.

At the insistence of the European Parliament, the Commission will have to publish an assessment of the situation by December 31st 2022 and propose to repeal or maintain the certificate accordingly. So, while it is extended for a year, the certificate could be discontinued earlier if it will no longer be consider necessary. 

The European parliament rapporteur, Spanish MEP Juan Fernando López Aguilar, said: “The lack of coordination from EU governments on travel brought chaos and disruption to the lives of millions of Europeans that simply wanted to move freely and safely throughout the EU.

“We sincerely hope that the worst of the pandemic is far behind us and we do not want Covid certificates in place a day longer than necessary.”

Vaccination requirements for the certificate

An EU certificate can be issued to a person vaccinated with any type of vaccine, but many countries accept only EMA-approved vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Novavax, Valneva and Janssen) – if you have been vaccinated with another vaccine, you should check the rules on the country you are travelling to.  

Certificates remain valid for 9 months (270) days following a complete vaccination cycle – so if you had your vaccine more than nine months ago you will need a booster in order to be considered fully vaccinated.

There is no requirement for a second booster, so if you have had a booster you remain ‘fully vaccinated’ even if your booster was administered more than 9 months ago. 

As of 1st March 2022, EU countries had issued almost 1.2 billion EU Covid certificates, of which 1.15 billion following vaccination, 511 million as a result of tests and 55 million after recovery from the virus. 

France, Italy, Germany, Denmark and Austria are the countries that have issued the largest number of EU Covid certificates.