The European Commission decided on Tuesday that the Covid-19 certificate used for travel in the EU would be valid for a period of nine months after the first vaccination cycle.
EU member states will be required to implement the new rules as of February 1, the Commission said.
The news was announced in the midst of a wider Omicron spread and a patchwork of new measures implemented by EU states to address the pandemic.
“A clear and uniform acceptance period for vaccination certificates will guarantee that travel measures continue to be coordinated,” said the Commission in its statement. “The new rules will ensure restrictions are based on the best available scientific evidence as well as objective criteria. Continued coordination is essential for the functioning of the Single Market and it will provide clarity for EU citizens in the exercise of their right to free movement.”
In its initial proposal, the Commission had said the rule was non-binding. However, as of 1 February 2022, all EU states will be obliged to allow admission to fully vaccinated travelers who present a valid Covid certificate.
EU countries can however decide to demand additional requirements from travelers in efforts to tackle the spread of Covid.
Speaking to Reuters, EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said the Commission was not in favor of additional travel requirements, adding that the measures were being assessed.
In view of the holiday season, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, Latvia, Cyprus and Austria are requiring fully vaccinated travelers from other EU countries to additionally provide a negative Covid-19 test upon arrival. For Greece’s new rules go here.
Many consider the extra measures as a breach to the harmonized approach to travel ensure by the EU Digital Covid Certificate.
“A harmonized validity period for the EU Digital Covid Certificate is a necessity for safe free movement and EU level coordination,” said Stella Kyriakides, commissioner for Health and Food Safety, adding that the “strength and success of this invaluable tool for citizens and business lies in its coherent use across the EU. What is needed now is to ensure that booster campaigns proceed as quickly as possible, that as many citizens are protected by an additional dose and that our certificates remain a key tool for travel and protection of public health.”
According to Reuters, an EU official said that following the third vaccine dose (booster shot), the validity period of the Covid-19 pass will be extended further without a set limit due to lack of scientific data with regard to the duration of protection from booster shots.
So far, 807 million certificates have been issued in the EU setting a global standard.
Earlier this month, travel and tourism organizations called for caution in response to the Commission’s then recommendation that the EU Digital Covid Certificate (DCC) remain valid for up to nine months after the second dose, unless a booster jab was administered.
In the meantime, Greece recently shortened the validity period of the Covid-19 recovery certificate from the initial six months to three months on the guidance of the country’s committee.