They can be oily skinned, sulky, intermittently selfish. But the way some countries are treating our teenagers feels rather unfair.
With the UK dropping testing requirements from February 11, now is the moment to start looking at our holiday options for the year ahead. But while combing the rules, families with young teenagers will notice there are some glaring omissions from their viable holiday map, with our favourite holiday destinations of France, Spain and Italy making things either impossible or very difficult for unjabbed teenagers.
Let’s take Spain, the UK’s favourite holiday destination. It currently classifies Britain as ‘high risk’, meaning those aged 12 and above can only enter the country if they are fully vaccinated (two doses; or including a booster if more than 270 days since the last dose), with no acceptable alternatives, like a negative PCR test result or proof of recovery, as many countries permit.
The problem with this is that only 12 per cent (around 300,000) of British 12- to 15-year-olds have received two jabs, meaning right now 2.5 million teenagers (and their families) are effectively locked out of Spain. Not ideal, with half term just a couple of weeks away. And it is worth remembering that many of these teenagers will actually wish to get vaccinated but cannot; the Government advises you have to wait 28 days after contracting Covid-19 to get a dose, and many in this age bracket will have tested positive during the omicron wave.
Italy’s at it too. They are slightly more generous than Spain, in that they will let in under-18s without proof of vaccination, so long as they take a PCR test before entry. But unless you’re planning on staying in a villa for your entire trip, or visiting friends, there’s not much point in dragging your beloved adolescents out there. If you are aged 12 and above and are not fully vaccinated, you will not be able to get your hands on the Super Green Pass. This means that, while you’re enjoying your bowl of puttanesca over a glass of pinot grigio, your precious young ones will have to lurk in the restaurant car park. Likewise, family skiing is off the cards in Italy unless you are all jabbed up.
As for France, you’ll be able to get unvaccinated teenagers in with a negative test result, but 12- to 15-year-olds will have to take daily antigen tests (carried out by a professional) to activate their ‘pass sanitaire’, and everyone aged 16 and over will only have a valid ‘pass vaccinal’ showing they are double vaccinated or boosted, if the second shot was not more than seven months ago. Without these documents, you cannot access ski lifts, enter cafés, restaurants and museums, stay in many hotels, or travel on long-distance trains.
So where does this leave us? If it’s European sun, sea and sand you’re after, you’ll have to look at the eastern side of the Mediterranean, where countries are proving more welcoming to British families.
In Turkey, for example, unvaccinated teenagers are allowed in with a negative Covid-19 test result, and will be able to enter restaurants and bars without a Covid pass. Egypt accepts a negative test instead of full vaccination for those aged six and above, and also has no vaccine pass system to visit indoor venues. Greece, too, will welcome your children in with a test, although unvaccinated minors aged four to 18 will need to take a test every 48 hours to enter indoor establishments, which is not ideal but more generous than the 24 hours required in France.
There are plenty of other countries that will welcome your unvaccinated young ones. Mexico and Costa Rica will do so without the requirement of a negative Covid test before arrival, making them among the most family-friendly destinations in the world right now (and lovely options for half term, if you’re in the market for a last-minute getaway). Closer to home, Switzerland has just loosened its restrictions on British arrivals, meaning children under 16 can enter without any tests so long as they are accompanied by a vaccinated adult.
We’re long enough in the tooth with all these testing regulations to know that things can, and will, change at a moment’s notice. Fast forward a month and France, Italy and Spain could well be rolling out the red carpet for our dear British teenagers. If not, their respective tourist boards will surely be lobbying their tourism ministers to make things easier for British families by Easter, or else risk another bruising holiday season.
But for now, with February half term approaching, our three favourite holiday destinations are off the travel map for millions of families with unvaccinated teens. If that’s not something to sulk about, I’m not sure what is.