European Union and member states have been working on a commonly accepted Digital Green Certificate, now called the EU Digital COVID Certificate, since early 2021 to facilitate the freedom of movement within the bloc.
The European Commission has today updated its proposals that all member states should accept from July 1, 2021. The keys to verifying these digital documents at the EU level will go live tomorrow (June 1st).
You can access EU’s page for reopening the travel here.
You have to keep in mind that this proposal only applies to the citizens and residents of the 27 member states. European Union is working on a proposal to allow third-country nationals to visit the bloc this summer. However, they still haven’t decided on the countries from which visitors would be allowed.
Southern European countries of Portugal, Italy, Spain, and Greece have already opened or are in the process of soon welcoming visitors outside from the EU/EEA who have been vaccinated or with negative Covid-19 test.
ECDC EU/EEA Map:
EU Commission’s Proposal:
Key updates to the common approach to travel measures inside the EU, building on the colour-coded map published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC):
Fully vaccinated persons holding vaccination certificates in line with the EU Digital COVID Certificate should be exempted from travel-related testing or quarantine 14 days after having received the last dose. This should also cover recovered persons having received a single dose of a 2-dose vaccine. Where Member States accept proof of vaccination in order to waive restrictions to free movement also in other situations, for example after the first dose in a 2-dose series, they should also accept, under the same conditions, vaccination certificates for a COVID-19 vaccine.
Recovered persons, holding certificates in line with the EU Digital COVID Certificate should be exempted from travel-related testing or quarantine during the first 180 days after a positive PCR test.
Persons with a valid test certificate in line with the EU Digital COVID Certificate should be exempted from possible quarantine requirements. The Commission proposes a standard validity period for tests: 72 hours for PCR tests and, where accepted by a Member State, 48 hours for rapid antigen tests.
‘Emergency brake’: Member States should re-introduce travel measures for vaccinated and recovered persons if the epidemiological situation deteriorates rapidly or where a high prevalence of variants of concern or interest has been reported.
Clarification and simplification of requirements, where imposed by Member States based on their own decision-making processes:
- Travellers from green areas: no restrictions
- Travellers from orange areas: Member States could require a pre-departure test (rapid antigen or PCR).
- Travellers from red areas: Member States could require travellers to undergo quarantine, unless they have a pre-departure test (rapid antigen or PCR).
- Travellers from dark red areas: non-essential travel should be strongly discouraged. Requirement of testing and quarantine remain.
To ensure family unity, minors travelling with parents should be exempted from quarantine when the parents do not need to undergo quarantine, for example due to vaccination. Children under 6 should also be exempted from travel-related testing.
The Commission proposes to adapt the thresholds of the ECDC map in view of the epidemiological situation and progress on vaccination. For the areas marked in orange the proposal is to increase the threshold of 14-day cumulative COVID-19 case notification rate from 50 to 75. Similarly, for the red areas the proposal is to adjust the threshold range from current 50-150 to the new 75-150.
Today, the European Commission has proposed an update to the Council Recommendation on the coordination of free movement restrictions in the EU, which were put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the epidemiological situation is improving and vaccination campaigns are speeding up all over the EU, the Commission is proposing that Member States gradually ease travel measures, including most importantly for the holders of the EU Digital COVID Certificate. The Commission has also proposed to update the common criteria for risk areas and to introduce an ‘emergency brake’ mechanism, to address the prevalence of new variants of concern or interest. The proposal also includes specific provisions on children to ensure unity of travelling families and a standard validity period for tests.
Didier Reynders, Commissioner for Justice, said: “The last weeks have brought a continuous downward trend in infection numbers, showing the success of the vaccination campaigns across the EU. In parallel, we are also encouraging affordable and widely available testing possibilities. In this context, Member States are now slowly lifting COVID-19 restrictions both domestically and regarding travel. Today, we are proposing that Member States coordinate this gradual lifting of free movement restrictions, taking into account our new common tool: the EU Digital COVID Certificate. We now expect Member States to make best use of this instrument and the recommendation to allow everyone to move freely and safely again.”
Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety said: “Freedom of movement is one of EU citizens’ most cherished rights: we need coordinated and predictable approaches for our citizens that would offer clarity and avoid inconsistent requirements across Member States. We want to make sure that we can move towards the reopening of our societies in the weeks ahead safely and in a coordinated way. As vaccination is progressing with increasing speed, we can be confident that safe free movement without restrictions can gradually resume again. Whilst we are looking ahead with more optimism, we need to remain cautious and always put the protection of public health first.”
In addition, the Commission calls for further efforts to ensure a smooth rollout of the EU Digital COVID Certificate. For this purpose, Member States should make use, to the maximum extent possible, of existing possibilities under national law to start issuing EU Digital COVID Certificates already before the entry into application of the underlying Regulation on 1 July. Where national law provides for the verification of COVID-19 certificates, holders of an EU Digital COVID Certificate could already make use of it when travelling.
The Commission will support this process by launching the central part of the EU Digital COVID Certificate, the EU gateway storing the public keys needed for the verification of an EU Digital COVID Certificate, on 1 June. Given that no personal data is exchanged via the EU gateway, Member States could already make use of its functionality.
Today’s Commission proposal also ensures consistency with the rules on non-essential travel to the EU, updated by the Council on 20 May 2021.
The speed of vaccination within the EU member states has gained momentum. However, a small percentage of residents and citizens are fully vaccinated this summer, as there are usually 4 to 12 weeks between the jabs.
The freedom of movement is one of the pillars of the European Union that was significantly disrupted by the pandemic. Most countries have had variable entry and testing requirements in place for intra-bloc arrivals. It would greatly facilitate the movement within the EU/EEA if the member states could agree upon standard rules what is required rather than each of the 27 members with their own.
Even under these proposed rules, plenty of testing will take place until the population is considered fully vaccinated.
It is still unclear when outside visitors are allowed to enter and “freely” roam around the Schengen area outside the few countries dependent on tourism (Portugal, Spain, Italy & Greece). The EU was supposed to release the list last week, but nothing has materialized so far.