After calls to simplify COVID travel rules within the EU, EU Ministers meeting at the General Affairs Council in Brussels agreed on Tuesday that the three main criteria for travel within the EU will be vaccination status, covid test results or recovery certificates. Freedom of movement within the EU will no longer be regulated by your country of origin.
Ministers also agreed that the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control status map should not only be based on the number of cases within the last 14 days and the percentage of tests performed, but also on vaccination coverage.
The new recommendation also strengthens the emergency responses to address the emergence of new mutations, with the Commission being able to propose coordinated travel restrictions for high-risk areas.
According to the updated Council Recommendation, measures to deal with the pandemic should be implemented taking into account the situation of each individual instead of the situation at the regional level. The only exception to this rule will be travel from areas where the virus is circulating at very high levels.
This means that a key factor in determining whether a person will be subject to restrictions on free movement will be a traveler's vaccination, test or recovery status against COVID-19, as recorded on a valid EU COVID-19 digital certificate.
The recommendation enters into force on 1 February, at the same time the maximum period of validity of the certificate for travel purposes has been set at 270 days (nine months).
More specifically, the recommendation from the EU Council states that a vaccination certificate is valid if the traveler:
- has been vaccinated with the last dose of the vaccine course or booster at least 14 days in advance but not more than 270 days (Member States can opt to accept vaccinations approved by national authorities or WHO)
- has a negative PCR test performed within 72 hours prior to travel, or an antigen test (rapid test) performed 24 hours prior to travel; or
- has a certificate of illness and recovery which is valid for up to 180 days (six months) after the first positive test.
As noted, a Member State may require non-digitally certified persons to take the test before or at least 24 hours after arrival, with the exception of those traveling for essential services or needs. Children under 12 years of age are also exempt from this requirement.
With regard to ECDC maps, Member States are required to implement measures for people traveling to and from areas in the 'deep red' category (where the virus is spreading faster), to discourage unnecessary travel and to request from those who do not have a certificate to take a test before departure and to be quarantined upon arrival.
Finally, with regard to the emergency response measures to address the emergence of new mutations, the Council, in close cooperation with the Commission and with the support of the ECDC, will review the situation.
The recommendations agreed upon today by the Council will be reviewed regularly due to the fluidity of the situation.