Europe France now requires a test of less than 24 hours for unvaccinated travelers from 15 European destinations, including Germany and Belgium

. This will be another step in the slow standardization of travel within the European Union. The Council of the European Union adopted a new recommendation on January 25. This recommendation aims at a coordinated approach to the free movement of persons during the Covid period. This recommendation responds to the increase in vaccination coverage and the rapid deployment of the EU digital Covid certificate.

This recommendation officially goes into effect on February 1, 2022, and replaces a previous recommendation. At the same time, the measure setting the validity of a vaccination certificate to a period of 270 days enters into force.

In this new recommendation, measures related to the management of Covid-19 should be applied according to the status of the person and not to the situation at the regional level, with the exception of areas where the virus circulates at very high levels. Simply put: the vaccinated, tested or recovered status takes precedence over the origin of the European traveler. The EU Covid digital certificate attests to this status. A people-based approach should significantly simplify the applicable rules and provide more clarity and predictability for travelers.

A people-based approach

According to the recommendation of the European Council

, travelers with a valid digital Covid certificate should not be subject to additional restrictions on free movement.

A valid EU digital Covid certificate includes

:

  • A certificate of vaccination for a vaccine approved at the European level. Less than 14 days and not more than 270 days have elapsed since the last dose of the primary vaccination schedule or if the person has received a booster dose. Member States may also accept certificates of vaccination for vaccines approved by national authorities or the WHO;
  • A negative PCR test result, obtained no more than 72 hours before travel. Or a rapid antigen test, obtained no more than 24 hours before travel;
  • A certificate of recovery indicating that less than 180 days have elapsed since the date of the first positive result.
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Individuals without a Covid digital certificate could be screened prior to arrival or up to 24 hours after arrival. Some travelers (essential need or border workers) should be exempt from this requirement.

EU regions’ infection map remains

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) should continue to publish a map of the potential infection risk of EU regions. This map will continue to use a traffic light system (green, o

range, red, dark red). The criteria are the 14-day case notification rate, vaccination coverage, and screening rate.

Based on this map, member states would apply specific measures for travel to and from areas classified as “dark red. Where the virus is circulating at very high levels. In particular, they should discourage all non-essential travel. People coming from these areas without a certificate of vaccination or recovery should be tested before departure or quarantined upon arrival.

Emergency brake

The new recommendation also strengthens the “emergency brake” procedure. This is intended to address the emergence of new variants of concern or variants to be monitored. The Council in coordination with the Commission and the ECDC should review any situation if a State imposes new restrictions. The Commission, based on a regular review of new data on variants, could also propose that the Council discuss the issue.

However, this opinion is only advisory. Each country is free to apply the health restrictions it deems necessary. But the Council believes that coordination on this issue is essential. In October 2020, the Council had already adopted a recommendation on a coordinated approach to free movement.