The European Commission on Monday made a proposal for Member States to lift restrictions on non-essential travel for persons vaccinated against the coronavirus (Covid-19) travelling to the EU.
More specifically, according to an announcement, the Commission proposes to allow entry to the EU for non-essential reasons for:
– all persons coming from countries with a good epidemiological situation, and
– all people who have received, at least 14 days before arrival, the last recommended dose of an EU-authorised vaccine.
“This could be extended to vaccines having completed the WHO emergency use listing process,” the Commission said.
In addition, if Member States decide to waive the requirements to present a negative PCR test and/or to undergo quarantine for vaccinated persons on their territory, they should also waive such requirements for vaccinated travellers from outside the EU.
In particular, travellers should be able to prove their vaccination status with a Digital Green Certificate (EU Covid-19 Certificate) issued by Member States’ authorities on an individual basis, or with another certificate recognised as equivalent by virtue of a Commission adequacy decision.
The Commission underlines that until the Digital Green Certificate is operational, Member States should be able to accept certificates from non-EU countries based on national law, taking into account the ability to verify the authenticity, validity and integrity of the certificate and whether it contains all relevant data.
Full lifting of non-essential travel restriction from more countries
In addition, the Commission proposed to raise, in line with the evolution of the epidemiological situation in the EU, the threshold related to the number of new COVID-19 cases used to determine a list of countries from which all travel should be permitted. This should allow the Council to expand this list.
Non-essential travel regardless of individual vaccination status is currently permitted from 7 countries with a good epidemiological situation.
‘Emergency brake’ to counter the spread of variants
While the emergence of coronavirus variants of concern calls for continued vigilance, as counter-balance, the Commission proposes a new ‘emergency brake’ mechanism, to be coordinated at EU level and which would limit the risk of such variants entering the EU.
“When the epidemiological situation of a non-EU country worsens quickly and in particular if a variant of concern or interest is detected, a Member State can urgently and temporarily suspend all inbound travel by non-EU citizens resident in such a country,” according to the Commission’s proposal.
The only exceptions in this case would be healthcare professionals, transport personnel, diplomats, transit passengers and those travelling for essential reasons. Such travellers should be subject to strict testing and quarantine arrangements even if they have been vaccinated.
It is now for the European Council to consider this proposal. A first discussion is scheduled at technical level in the Council’s integrated political crisis response (IPCR) meeting taking place on 4 May, followed by a discussion at the meeting of EU Ambassadors (Coreper) on 5 May.
Once the proposal is adopted by the Council, it will be for Member States to implement the measures set out in the recommendation. The Council should review the list of non-EU countries exempted from the travel restriction in light of the updated criteria and continue doing so every 2 weeks.