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 vaccine uptake and the rapid roll – out of the EU’s digital COVID certificate and replaces the previously existing recommendation. It enters into force on 1 February 2022, the same day as a delegated act amending the Digital COVID-19 Certificate Regulation and granting an acceptance period of 270 days for vaccination certificates.
According to the new recommendation, COVID-19 measures should be applied taking into account the status of the person instead of the situation at regional level, with the exception of areas where the virus circulates at very high levels. This means that a traveler’s COVID-19 vaccination, test or recovery status, as evidenced by a valid EU digital COVID certificate, should be the key determinant. A person-based approach will significantly simplify the applicable rules and will provide additional clarity and predictability for travelers.
Travelers holding a valid EU digital COVID certificate should not be subject to further restrictions on free movement.
A valid EU digital COVID certificate includes:
- ONE vaccination certificate for a vaccine approved at European level if at least 14 days and at most 270 days have elapsed since the last dose of the primary vaccination series or if the person has received a booster dose. Member States may also accept vaccination certificates for vaccines approved by national authorities or the WHO.
- A negative PCR test results obtained no more than 72 hours before the trip or a negative rapid antigen test obtained no more than 24 hours before the trip.
- ONE recovery certificate indicates that no more than 180 days have elapsed since the date of the first positive test result.
Individuals who do not hold a digital EU covid certificate may be asked to take a test before or within 24 hours of arrival. Travelers with a significant function or need, border commuters and children under the age of 12 should be exempted from this requirement.
Map of EU regions
The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) should continue to publish a map of the regions of the Member States indicating the potential risk of infection under a traffic light system (green, orange, red, dark red). The card should be based on 14-day case reporting frequency, vaccine admission, and test rate.
On the basis of this map, Member States should apply measures concerning traveling to and from dark red areas, where the virus circulates at very high levels. In particular, they should discourage all unnecessary travel and require persons arriving from the areas not in possession of a vaccination or recovery certificate to undergo a pre-departure and quarantine test after arrival.
Certain exceptions to these measures should apply to travelers with a significant function or need, border commuters and children under 12 years of age.
Under the new recommendation, the emergency brake is strengthened to respond to the emergence of new variants of concern or interest. When a Member State imposes restrictions in response to the emergence of a new variant, the Council, in close cooperation with the Commission and supported by the ECDC, should review the situation. The Commission may, based on the regular review of new evidence of variants, also propose a discussion in the Council.
During the discussions, the Commission could propose that the Council agree on a coordinated approach to travel from the areas concerned. Any situation that results in the adoption of measures should be reviewed regularly.
The decision on whether to impose restrictions on free movement in order to protect public health remains the responsibility of the Member States; However, coordination of this topic is crucial. On 13 October 2020, the Council adopted a Recommendation on a coordinated approach to restricting free movement in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was updated on 1 February 2021 and 14 June 2021. This Recommendation sets out common criteria and a common framework. for possible measures for travelers.
The Council Recommendation is not a legally binding instrument. The authorities of the Member States remain responsible for implementing the content of the Recommendation.