The European Commission has proposed a nine-month time limit on vaccination certificates for travel to and within the European Union.
This comes after spikes in Covid-19 cases across Europe, and the introduction of lockdowns in countries such as Austria and Slovakia.
According to the proposals, travellers would have to show proof of a booster jab once their vaccine status is more than nine months old – i.e. nine months after the last dose of the vaccine. This would apply from January 10, 2022, and would allow test- and quarantine-free entry to the member states.
The nine months takes into account the administration of booster doses after six months, and includes an additional period of three months “to ensure that national vaccination campaigns can adjust and citizens can have access to boosters”.
The Commission is also favouring a “person-based” approach to travel measures, rather than one based on travellers’ country of departure, to ensure consistency across the bloc. Under its proposals, people with a valid EU Digital Covid Certificate would not be subject to tests or quarantine “regardless of their place of departure in the EU”. Those without the certificate may be required to undergo a test prior to or after arrival.
It is also proposing to allow entry to travellers with non-EU approved vaccines that are recognised by the WHO, including China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac and vaccines produced in India. Proof of a negative pre-departure PCR test will be required in the case of travellers vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine which is not approved by the European Medicines Agency.
Didier Reynders, Commissioner for Justice, said:
“Since the start of the pandemic, the Commission has been fully active in finding solutions to guarantee the safe free movement of people in a coordinated manner. In light of the latest developments and scientific evidence, we are proposing a new recommendation to be adopted by the Council.
“Based on our common tool, the EU Digital Covid Certificate, which has become a real standard, we are moving to a ‘person-based’ approach. Our main objective is [to] avoid diverging measures throughout the EU. This also applies to the question of boosters, which will be essential to fight the virus.
“Among other measures, we propose today that the Council agrees on a standard validity period for vaccination certificates issued following the primary series. Agreeing on this proposal will be crucial for the months ahead and the protection of the safe free movement for citizens.”
Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety added:
“The EU Digital Covid Certificate and our coordinated approach to travel measures have greatly contributed to safe free movement, with the protection of public health as our priority. We have vaccinated over 65 per cent of the total EU population, but this is not enough. There are still too many people who are not protected.
“For everyone to travel and live as safely as possible, we need to reach significantly higher vaccination rates – urgently. We also need to reinforce our immunity with booster vaccines.
“Taking into account the guidance from ECDC, and to allow Member States to adjust their vaccination campaigns and for citizens to have access to boosters, we propose a standard acceptance period for vaccination certificates. At the same time, we have to continue to strongly encouraging everyone to continue to respect public health measures. Our masks need to stay on.”
The Commission revealed that over 650 million EU Digital Covid Certificates have been issued to date. Earlier this month the NHS Covid Pass was accepted as an equivalent to the European Union’s certificate, allowing travellers to share their vaccination record when travelling abroad.