Today, the Commission is proposing to update the Council’s recommendation on non-essential travel from outside the European Union to simplify the framework and reflect recent developments. Priority will be given to travelers who have been vaccinated.
Member states should systematically reopen those vaccinated with vaccines after they have completed the WHO emergency use list process, as well as reopen vaccinations with EU approved vaccines as is the case today. As a basic precaution, proof of a negative PCR test will always be required for all travelers who have been vaccinated with a WHO approved vaccine not approved by the European Medicines Agency, and for recovered travelers.
The updates also introduced a time limit of 9 months for acceptance of vaccination certificates after the initial series of vaccinations. This takes into account ECDC’s guidance regarding the administration of booster doses as of 6 months after completion of the initial vaccination series and provides an additional period of 3 months to ensure that national vaccination campaigns are adjusted and that people have access to the administration of the booster.
Updates also include acceptance of vaccination certificates issued after an additional (“booster”) dose. In addition, given the increasing demand for vaccination around the world, the commission proposes to discontinue the list of countries through which all travelers are allowed regardless of vaccination status, from March 1 next year. The Council will now consider this proposal.
In parallel, the Commission is also today proposing updates to the Council’s recommendation on freedom of movement within the European Union.
Further reopening of vaccinated and restored travelers, with strong safeguards in mind
Member states should continue to welcome travelers who have been vaccinated with EU approved vaccines. Likewise, from January 10, 2022, they must reopen their doors to all vaccinated people after they have completed the WHO emergency use list process (they are free to choose whether to accept these WHO vaccines under current rules). This update will ensure simpler and more coherent rules across the European Union, making it easier for vaccinated travelers to plan their trip.
Those who have recovered from COVID-19 within 180 days prior to their trip and have either an EU digital COVID certificate or one considered equivalent, must also be able to travel to the EU from 10 January 2022.
This comes with strong safeguards: travelers who have been vaccinated with a WHO approved vaccine that is not approved by the European Medicines Agency and recovered travelers must show systematic evidence of a negative PCR test performed prior to departure. This will ensure that you reopen safely, considering that the virus can sometimes compromise immunity.
In addition, all vaccinated travelers must have completed the initial vaccination series less than 9 months ago or have received an additional dose. This will also apply from January 10, 2022. The admission period of 9 months takes into account the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) guidance on the administration of booster doses from 6 months, and provides for an additional period of 3 months to ensure the adjustment of vaccination campaigns patriotism and enabling people to access reinforcements.
Member states must accept non-EU vaccination and recovery certificates that are equivalent to an EU COVID digital certificate. For countries where there is no such equivalence, Member States can continue to accept, under their national law, proof of test and vaccination issued by countries outside the European Union, subject to the need to be able to verify its authenticity, validity and safety.
Finally, the revised rules make it clear that children aged 6-17 must be able to travel to the EU with a negative PCR test performed prior to departure even if they have not been vaccinated. Member states can request additional testing after arrival, quarantine or self-isolation. Testing and vaccination are not required for children under 6 years old.
Updated limits for lifting restrictions
Currently, non-essential travel regardless of individual vaccination status is permitted from more than 20 countries with good epidemiological status. The Council decides this list on the basis of the epidemiological criteria contained in the Council’s recommendation. The Commission proposes to amend some of the existing thresholds for inclusion of countries from 10 January 2022, pending implementation of the new and simplified framework:
Slight increase in the 14-day cumulative COVID-19 case reporting rate threshold (that is, the total number of newly reported COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population) from 75 to 100. This means that more countries could be eligible for inclusion in the the list . The revised threshold will remain well below the current EU average, which is over 470. An increase in the weekly testing rate (i.e. the number of tests for COVID-19 infections per 100,000 population) from 300 to 600. This reflects the general increase in testing capabilities and will help to Improve data reliability. The threshold will also be lower than the current EU average, which is over 5,000. Simplified approach as of 1 March 2022
In light of the expected progress in vaccination campaigns around the world, the Commission is proposing a simplified approach from 1 March 2022, entirely dependent on the condition of the traveler, not on the country of departure: Member states should allow only vaccinated, recovering or essential travelers. The list of countries with a sufficiently good epidemiological situation from which travel should be possible should be discontinued.
Frequent updates to the list have made it difficult for travelers to plan their trips. The new rules will provide more clarity and clarity to travelers and make the system more workable. With the uptake of vaccinations around the world, it also makes sense to lift travel restrictions based on a person’s condition rather than on the country they come from.
This change will only be made from 1 March 2022 to give non-EU countries time to increase their vaccination rates. It will also depend on a prior assessment of the vaccination status outside the European Union.