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Planning a trip to Europe when Australia opens borders? Here's how they're learning to live with COVID

A patron at a gym in Rome has her Green Pass checked at the entrance on 6 August. This measure is the first of its kind by a major European economy. Source: AAP Image/Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse via AP

Empowered by digital COVID certificates like Italy's Green Pass, public places in countries across Europe are beginning to receive high footfall. But how strict are the rules around face masks, QR codes and vaccination certificates?


  • The Green Pass is the only way to access public transport and airports, hotels, restaurants, museums and many other indoor activities. It is a digital COVID certificate issued by the health ministry which can be obtained by showing proof of full vaccination including the batch number of the vaccine. The pass is recognised across the European Union. Unvaccinated people can also get it if they have a negative COVID-19 test. In that case, the pass is valid only for 48 hours. 
  • Foreigners need it as well. For Australians planning to travel to Italy, getting the Green Pass involves obtaining their vaccine batch numbers (currently not included in Australia's vaccine certificates) which can be requested through their GP or the Australian Immunisation Register.
  • The Green Pass is seeing some protests across the country. While its introduction is being seen by some as a positive measure to convince more people to get vaccinated, there are others vocally opposed to it.
  • Students and staff at universities and schools across Italy are required to show the pass to enter their premises. It also applies to parents of school children.
  • All private and public sector employees will need the Green Pass from October 15. Employees who do not have it face suspension from work without pay from Day One and fines for non-compliance up to 1,500 euros. However, employers won't be allowed to fire workers for not having the pass. 
  • This summer, tourism bounced back to levels better than not only 2020 but also 2019 due to the Green Pass.


France's Pass Sanitaire
A patron at a restaurant in Paris on August 10 shows the Pass Sanitaire on a smartphone.
AAP Image/Raphael Lafargue/ABACAPRESS.COM.

  • The Pass Sanitaire provides access to high footfall venues like cinemas, restaurants, stadia, places of worship, trains (except daily public transport like the metro, trams or buses), planes, coaches, hospitals (except for admission into emergency) and aged care residences. 
  • The pass can be obtained via the TousAntiCOVID app or a QR code can be printed from the website. 
  • France has also seen mass protests against the Pass Sanitaire.
  • To get it, you need to be over 12, fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and a certificate (obtained seven days after the second shot of double-dose vaccines like Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna or 28 days for the single-dose vaccine like Janssen). Or, you could provide a certificate if you’ve been infected with the virus and have recovered. You could also provide a negative COVID test result done less than 72 hours ago.
  • Tests won’t be free anymore from October 15. 
  • Those vaccinated in non-EU countries like Albania, Andorra, Féroe islands, Iceland, Israel, Liechtenstein, Macedonia, Morocco, Monaco, Norway, Panama, UK, San Marino, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the Vatican, get a COVID certificate recognised by the EU.
  • Others vaccinated with an EU-authorised vaccine (like Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Janssen) or with one placed on the WHO’s emergency list (like Sinovac, Sinopharm), can make an online request for a QR code to scan at venues where the Pass Sanitaire is required. 
  • All French abroad need to send their local vaccine certificate and proof of residency to get the QR code when in France. This can take some time, so in the meantime, you have to do a COVID test (RT-PCR) valid for 72 hours. Foreigners have to pay for it. 


QR codes are manadtory in The Netherlands from 25 Sept
A waiter checks the QR code on a patron's Coronacheck app in a bar in Doesburg on September 24.
AAP Image/Robin Utrecht/ABACAPRESS.COM

  • Residents need to download the CoronaCheck-app and login with their DigiD to retrieve their vaccination data, which gets converted to a QR code.
  • A QR code lets you into restaurants, cinemas, festivals and other public venues. If you are not vaccinated, you need to get tested and show a negative test result before entering a venue every time.
  • People can get their QR codes when they are fully vaccinated. People who don’t use smartphones, can visit the CoronaCheck-website and print the code.
  • It can be challenging for people from overseas to get the QR code and for some, it is even impossible at this stage. It isn’t yet possible for travellers from Australia to get because the Australian and Dutch systems are not compatible. Anyone with a BSN (Dutch citizen service number) needs to visit the Municipal Health Services GGD in Utrecht and show proof of vaccination from their country of residence to get a QR code. If you don’t have a BSN, it’s impossible to get a QR code, which means you need to get tested every time you want to visit a venue.
  • Since the introduction of the QR code, restaurants, cinemas, clubs etc have reopened, much to the pleasure of patrons and businesses.


Germany COVID pass
People fill the downtown and pedestrian zone of Augsburg Germany on October 7.
AAP Image/Alexander Pohl/Sipa USA

  • The Cov-Pass App allows entry into restaurants, theatres, sports stadia etc. 
  • Since 28 September, Einreiseverordnung (Entry Regulation) states that all travellers entering Germany, irrespective of whether or not they have spent time in a high-risk area or area of concern, are obligated to present proof of the absence of the infection with a test result or proof of vaccination or recovery.
  • Proof can be shown in paper form (which includes the yellow Impfpass) or the CovPass-App. People coming from a high-risk area or area of concern must self-isolate for 10 days. The list of areas is constantly updated and Australia is currently not on that list.
  • Germany calls this 3G: Getestet (negative test), Geimpft (vaccination proof) and Genesen (proof of recovery from infection). Children under the age of 12 are exempt from the obligation.
  • Each Bundesland (state) and Stadt (city) has its own requirements but as a general rule, shops and restaurants can mandate entry based on 2G or 3G.  With 3G, people are often permitted to take off their masks but not with 2G. Depending on the venue, you can get entry if the owner only requests for 2G (negative test and proof of recovery from infection) instead of 3G.


  • The COVID Free GR app is used to scan COVID certificates (whether digital or hard copy) upon entry to an indoor venue. It’s the same app used for verification of the EU Digital COVID Certificate.
  • To curb COVID transmission during the autumn and winter months, new public health measures came into effect from 13 September and will continue till 31 March 2022.
  • Among them is the requirement to show proof of vaccination or proof of infection and recovery within the past six months upon entry at certain indoor venues like clubs, cafes, restaurants, indoor sports centres etc. Museums, archaeological sites, theatres and cinemas are exempt from this requirement, i.e. entry is also allowed to the unvaccinated if they present a negative COVID-19 test result within the last 48 hours.
  • Foreigners who have an EU digital COVID certificate can use that, or even their country’s health certificate (for Schengen countries). The same applies in principle for citizens of countries outside the EU, as long as they present a certificate that includes information like the type of vaccine, the number and dates of doses.
  • Anecdotal accounts from regional areas suggest people are not asked for their proof of vaccination upon entry to indoor venues. This might be attributed to the early stage of the implementation of the new measures and low customer traffic in indoor venues yet.
  • The implementation of the new public health measures could be stricter in metropolitan cities.


COVID restrictions relaxed in Portugal
Two women wearing face masks walk along a street of bars and nightclubs in Lisbon on 1 October when they reopened for business.
AAP Image/AP Photo/Armando Franca

  • To enter bars, nightclubs, restaurants and hotels, the EU Digital COVID certificate is mandatory to be scanned at the entrance.
  • With the world's highest vaccination rate (over 85 percent), almost all restrictions at public places have been lifted from 1 October and the vaccination certificate is not required at most venues and events. The country’s public health response has changed from a state of contingency to a state of alert, with COVID being equated to other contagious diseases as it is considered the vaccine has brought about group immunity.
  • The vaccination certificate (on mobile phones) is now needed only for four purposes: air or sea travel; visits to hospitals, health centres and residences for the elderly; major cultural, sporting and corporate events; and bars and nightclubs.
  • It is no longer mandatory to wear masks in restaurants and small shops. They are mandatory only where the population is most at risk, such as nursing homes or hospitals, places with high population influx, such as large commercial areas and those where people stay for long periods of time, such as concert halls or classrooms.
  • In gyms, tourist establishments and accommodation, it is no longer necessary to produce the certificate or a negative test result.
  • Epidemiologists say that for countries like Portugal, which are a bridge between continents, it is a utopia to expect deaths by COVID to fall to zero. 


Spain Covid
A waiter serves patrons in a bar during the Pilar and the National Day long weekend in Granada on 11 October. Tourists are back to enjoy the festivities.
Álex Cámara/NurPhoto via Getty Images

  • At 77.7 per cent, Spain has a high level of fully-vaccinated population, which has pre-empted the government from mandating a digital COVID pass/certificate to enter hospitality venues. However, such a certificate has appeared as a form of epidemiological control in two regions so far, namely, Galicia and the Canary Islands. 
  • In the Canary Islands, the certificate is required to enter gyms or entertainment venues.  A vaccination certificate is required where the administered doses of vaccines are specified. A recovery certificate is mandatory when a person has recovered from the illness within the last 180 days. A test certificate is necessary where a PDIA test (diagnostic test for active infection) with a negative result has been obtained in the last 72 hours in the case of a PCR test, or 48 hours in the case of an antigen test.
  • Before going to Spain, foreign travellers have to fill out a Health Control Form. People must complete it from the website or the app and send it to the health authorities 48 hours before their flight. They will then receive an email with a QR Code (which must be printed or downloaded on their mobile phone) that will allow them to access the destination airport.
  • Travel to Spain is possible from countries where the health situation has improved sufficiently. The European Council regularly reviews and updates a list of such countries based on an evaluation of their health situation.  
  • For a foreign citizen, it is the authority of each autonomous community to assess and accept the information submitted by him/her about the tests performed or vaccines administered in the country of residence. 


QR codes not mandatory in Russia
A sign in Moscow says: "Food without QR code and restrictions. We love you with or without vaccination. No QR code? Scan ours!"
Supplied by Vladimir Chugunov

  • No digital COVID certificates or QR codes are needed to access public places.
  • Face masks were made compulsory in public places, on transport, parking lots and elevators but aren't strictly enforced. In Moscow, the mandate to wear gloves in public places has been revoked. QR codes for access to cafes and restaurants have also been discontinued.
  • In other cities and regions of Russia, mandatory or recommended rules vary and depend on the local epidemiological situation. In many places, mandatory vaccination has been introduced for certain categories of people. There is no single regime. 


Produced in collaboration with SBS Italian, SBS French, SBS German, SBS Greek, SBS Dutch, SBS Portuguese, SBS Spanish and SBS Russian.