The European Union is seeking to streamline the sometimes chaotic travel between its member states during the pandemic by relying more clearly on a person’s vaccine or infection status rather than where a traveller came from.
The EU’s 27 Europe ministers agreed Tuesday on such a recommendation to avoid the endless second-guessing on planning trips to and from European areas where COVID-19 might run rampant or not.
”We should move to the person-based approach. It means that how you as a person are protected against the possible infection and not to work on the country by country or regional basis,” European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic said.
The EU said it can adopt such an approach since the vaccination rollout across the bloc is very high and the use of a QR Code app widely known and accepted. The full vaccination rate in the EU stands at about 70%, even though there are sometimes big differences between nations.
Under the rules for a legal travel certificate, vaccination is a key element and would be valid for nine months since the last dose of the primary vaccination series or after the booster shot. A negative PCR test no more than three days old or an antigen test one day old also counts, as does a recovery certificate no more than six months old.
The geographical aspect still counts, whereby travel to areas with very high infection rates would still be discouraged.
Any joint action among the 27 nations has proven tough to fully enforce since public health protection remains the prerogative of the individual national governments. Tuesday’s action amounts to recommendations only.
“You are right to say that when a new variant appears and when the pandemic hits at speed, suddenly there are tensions that often lead to fragmentation,” said French Europe Minister Clement Beaune, who chaired the meeting.
“But if you look at what happened at the beginning of the omicron variant, it was only a minority of the states who introduced additional measures,” he said. He hoped that minority would now be reduced to zero once the recommendation kicks in next Tuesday.
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