Explained: How do travel rules in Europe change after February 1?

Travel rules change for European Union (EU) citizens and residents in February. For those with a valid EU COVID digital certificate, exploring the continent is about to get easier.

On Tuesday, the EU agreed on a “coordinated approach to facilitate safe free movement” across Europe by lifting restrictions for people with a valid EU digital COVID certificate. This means that EU citizens with a valid certificate (proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or recovery) should not face restrictions such as quarantine or testing upon arrival at another EU destination. EU.

Additional testing requirements may remain in place for people who are unvaccinated or not up to date with their booster vaccination schedule.

“This recommendation responds to the significant increase in vaccination and the rapid deployment of the EU Digital Covid certificate, and replaces the existing recommendation,” a statement from the European Council read.

The European Commission wants to provide a coordinated response to the boosters ©Getty Images

Clément Beaune, France’s secretary of state for European affairs, said the idea is to take a person-based approach when setting restrictions, rather than focusing on the country they come from. .

“This is how we focus much more on the individual situation of people – vaccinated or not – rather than on the epidemiological situation of this or that country or region of the EU, it is important to have more restrictions for unvaccinated people,” Beaune told reporters on Tuesday.

Additionally, on February 1, the EU is shortening the validity of vaccination status in COVID certificates to nine months (at most) since a person’s last dose. Here’s a breakdown of the latest rule changes.

What is an Active European Digital COVID Certificate?

The EU COVID Digital Certificate allows EU citizens and residents to easily present their vaccination status for travel within the bloc during the pandemic. According to the Council of the EU, “travellers in possession of a valid European digital COVID certificate should not be subject to additional restrictions on free movement”.

To keep it active, you will need to get a booster if more than nine months have passed since your last recommended dose of a primary vaccination schedule. This is nine months after your second injection of an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZecenca) or nine months after a Johnson & Johnson vaccine. If you have recovered from the virus, you will need a booster shot nine months after your first and only shot.

Without a reminder, you can have a negative PCR test within 72 hours of travel or a negative antigen test within 24 hours.

People can also keep it active with a certificate of reinstatement, provided no more than 180 days have passed since the last positive result.

Why is there a nine month delay for current certificates?

The nine-month period applies only to vaccination status and “takes into account the guidance of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) on the administration of booster doses from six months, and provides for an additional period three months to ensure national vaccination campaigns can adapt and citizens have access to boosters,” the European Commission said last month.

What about children?

Children under 12 are generally exempt from needing a digital COVID certificate to travel without restrictions under EU guidelines.

Will all EU countries follow the same rules?

When the certificates were introduced in June last year, it was up to member states to decide how long to accept vaccination certificates for travel, but the new validity rule is meant to be binding on all 27 member states. of the EU after sufficient support.

However, France is doing things its own way and requiring people to receive their booster within seven months of their last dose (or two months in the case of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine). From February 15, this period will be reduced to four months.

Malta also goes further by requiring people to receive their booster within three months of their last injection.

Some tourists visit St. Peter's Basilica area at the time of Covid-19
The rules take effect on February 1 ©Getty Images

Do I need a new digital EU COVID certificate to travel?

The rules come into force on February 1, and many governments have already started issuing citizens new certificates to include their recall information. Those who have not received a booster shot but received their last shot within the last nine months will still be allowed to use their current vaccination certificates for travel. Those who are not vaccinated can continue to travel by passing a negative COVID-19 test.

Is the new certificate required to enter the sites?

In addition to allowing people to present their vaccination status for travel, many Member States require people’s certificates to gain access to restaurants, gyms and many other places across Europe.

The new rules on the validity of the passes only affect how they are used for travel, it is up to each country to decide whether it wants people to be up to date with their booster shots before being allowed to enter certain places.

Although some countries, such as France, have already agreed that those eligible for the boosters will need to obtain one in order to validate health passes used to access restaurants, cafes, museums and public transport.

“The new rules on the period of acceptance of vaccination certificates apply for travel purposes. When introducing different rules for the use of certificates at national level, Member States are encouraged to align them with these new rules to provide safety to travelers and reduce disruption,” the European Commission said.

Do non-EU travelers need a booster to be considered fully vaccinated to travel within the EU?

The new rules only apply to European member states that have joined the EU’s COVID digital certificate scheme for the purposes of intra-EU travel. It is up to each country to determine its own entry rules for visitors from outside the bloc.

For more information on COVID-19 and travel, see Lonely Planet’s Health Hub.

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