COVID-19: the Council adopts a revised recommendation on measures affecting free movement, applicable according to the individual situation of persons and no longer to the region of origin.

Infographic – A common approach for COVID-19 measures on travel within the EU




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The Council today adopted a recommendation on a coordinated approach to facilitate safe free movement during the COVID-19 pandemic. This recommendation responds to the significant increase in vaccination coverage and the rapid deployment of the EU digital COVID certificate, and replaces the previous recommendation. It will come into force on 1er February 2022, the same day as a delegated act amending the Digital COVID Certificate Regulation and providing for a 270-day acceptance period for vaccination certificates.

Under the new recommendation, COVID-19 related measures should be applied based on the status of the person and not the situation at the regional level, except for areas where the virus is circulating at very high levels. This means that the determining factor should be the vaccinated, tested or recovered status of the traveler from a COVID-19 perspective, as evidenced by a valid EU digital COVID certificate. A people-based approach will significantly simplify the applicable rules and provide more clarity and predictability for travellers.

People-based approach

Travelers in possession of a valid EU digital COVID certificate should not be subject to additional restrictions on free movement.

A valid EU digital COVID certificate includes:

  • a vaccination certificate for a vaccine approved at European level if at least 14 days and not more than 270 days have elapsed since the last dose of the primary vaccination course or if the person received a booster dose. Member States may also accept vaccination certificates for vaccines approved by national authorities or the WHO;
  • a negative result a PCR test, obtained no more than 72 hours before travel, or a rapid antigen detection test, obtained no more than 24 hours before travel;
  • a certificate of reinstatement indicating that less than 180 days have passed since the date of the first positive result.

People who are not in possession of an EU digital COVID certificate may be required to undergo a screening test before arrival or a maximum of 24 hours after. Travelers who hold a critical position or who have an essential need, cross-border workers and children under 12 should be exempt from this obligation.

EU regions map

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) should continue to publish a map of Member States’ regions showing the possible risk of infection according to a traffic light system (green, orange, red, dark red). The map should be based on the 14-day case notification rate, vaccination coverage and testing rate.

On the basis of this map, Member States should apply measures concerning travel to and from areas classified as “dark red”, where the virus is circulating at very high levels. In particular, they should discourage all non-essential travel and require people coming from these areas and not in possession of a vaccination or recovery certificate to submit to a test before their departure or to quarantine at their arrival.

Certain exceptions to these measures should apply to travelers who occupy a critical position or who have an essential need, border workers and children under 12 years of age.

Emergency brake

Under the new recommendation, the “emergency brake” procedure aimed at dealing with the emergence of new variants of concern or variants to be monitored, is reinforced. When a Member State imposes restrictions to deal with the emergence of a new variant, the Council, in close cooperation with the Commission and with the support of ECDC, should review the situation. The Commission, on the basis of a regular examination of new data concerning variants, could also propose holding a discussion within the Council.

During the discussion, the Commission could propose that the Council agree on a coordinated approach regarding travel from the areas concerned. Any situation leading to the adoption of measures should be subject to regular review.

context

The decision whether or not to introduce restrictions on free movement in order to protect public health remains the responsibility of Member States. However, coordination on this subject is essential. On 13 October 2020, the Council adopted a recommendation on a coordinated approach to the restriction of free movement in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which it updated on 1er February 2021 and 14 June 2021. This recommendation establishes common criteria as well as a common framework with regard to possible measures with regard to travellers.

The Council recommendation is not a legally binding instrument. Member State authorities remain responsible for implementing the content of the recommendation.

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