Time for Member States to drop additional travel measures, EU says

Time for Member States to drop additional travel measures, EU says
Credit: European Parliament

All EU Member States have been called on to abolish additional travel restrictions beyond EU recommendations to provide more clarity to people travelling within the continent.

The EU-27 agreed on new recommendations regarding the EU Digital COVID Certificate, confirming that the possession of a valid health pass should in principle be sufficient when travelling during the pandemic, abolishing any additional quarantine and testing requirements.

"We now call on all Member States to implement the common rules swiftly to ensure coordination and clarity for our citizens and travellers," Commissioner for Health Stella Kyriakides, said.

The Commission called for the discontinuation of the additional travel measures that a number of Member States have introduced, which make travel "more cumbersome and less predictable across the EU," stating that Omicron has "by now spread across Europe."

This means travellers should be able to freely enter EU countries if they hold an EU Digital COVID Certificate, which proves that a person has either been vaccinated against Covid-19, that they received a negative PCR test result 72 hours before arriving or an antigen test 24 hours before, or recovered from the illness in the last 180 days.

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Member States agreed to move to this "person-based" approach, where the health situation and vaccination status of an individual prevail over the epidemiological situation of the region they come from, which means the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)'s colour-coded travel map becomes less important.

However, additional measures can still be imposed on travellers from the highest “dark red” category of this map.

Aligning all rules

French Secretary of State for European Affairs Clément Beaune, who is chairing this semester's EU Council of Ministers for European Affairs, already said he could not guarantee that the states that have adopted additional restrictions will lift them, especially as the recommendation is not binding.

However, Belgium's Foreign Affairs Minister Sophie Wilmès stressed that this decision to align travel measures was the right one, but that it is "essential for our country that all Member States fully implement the recommendation in order to guarantee as much as possible the freedom of people to move freely in Europe."

All countries should now also align the validity period for vaccinated people to nine months after they received the last shot of the basic vaccination schedule (meaning a booster dose is needed after this period), which will also come into force on 1 February.

Finally, it added that any measures that do restrict free movement should be non-discriminatory and proportionate and that EU countries should in principle not refuse entry to persons travelling from the other Member States.

The European travel certificate was introduced at the beginning of July 2021 and serves to facilitate travel within the European Union (including Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein).

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