Common approach to travel measures: key areas
On 25 January 2022 the Council adopted a revised recommendation on facilitating safe and free movement in the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic. This agreement follows the Commission’s proposal of 25 November 2021.
Under the updated recommendation, COVID-19 measures should be applied based on the individual situation of persons and no longer on the region of origin, with the exception of areas where the virus is circulating at very high levels. This means that a traveller’s COVID-19 vaccination, test or recovery status, proved by a valid EU Digital COVID Certificate, should be the key determinant. This recommendation responds to the significant increase in vaccine uptake and the rapid roll-out of the EU Digital COVID Certificate, and replaces the previously existing recommendation.
In line with the new rules, EU Member States must accept vaccination certificates for a period of 270 days (9 months) since the completion of the primary vaccination series:
- For a two-dose vaccine, this means 270 days from the second shot or, in line with the national vaccination strategy, the first and only shot after having recovered from COVID-19.
- For a single-dose vaccine, this means 270 days from the first and only shot.
EU countries should not provide for a different acceptance period for the purposes of travel within the European Union. The standard acceptance period does not apply to certificates for booster doses.
As of 1 February 2022, new rules have also been implemented regarding the encoding of booster shots in the Certificate. As already clarified in December, boosters will be recorded as:
- 3/3 for a booster dose following a primary 2-dose vaccination series
- 2/1 for a booster dose following a single-dose vaccination or a one dose of a 2-dose vaccine administered to a recovered person.
Certificates that were issued differently before that clarification need to be corrected and issued again, to make sure that boosters can be distinguished from the status of full vaccination.
This recommendation entered into force on 1 February 2022.
On 3 February 2022, the Commission proposed to extend the EU Digital COVID Certificate system by a year, until 30 June 2023.
Travellers in possession of a valid EU digital COVID Certificate should, in most cases, not be subject to additional restrictions to free movement.
A valid EU Digital COVID Certificate includes:
- A vaccination certificate for a vaccine approved at European level if at least 14 days and not more than 270 days have passed since the last dose of the primary vaccination series. Vaccination certificates for booster doses are valid immediately and without a maximum validity, at this stage. EU countries could also accept vaccination certificates for vaccines approved by national authorities or the WHO.
- A negative PCR test result obtained no more than 72 hours before travel or a negative rapid antigen test obtained no more than 24 hours before travel.
- A certificate of recovery indicating that no more than 180 days have passed since the date of the first positive test result.
Persons who are not in possession of an EU Digital COVID Certificate should be required to undergo a test prior to or no later than 24 hours after arrival.
Travellers with an essential function or need, cross-border commuters and children under 12 should not be required to be in the possession of a valid EU Digital COVID Certificate.
Map of EU regions
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) will continue to publish a map of Member States’ regions according to a traffic light system (green, orange, red, dark red). The map will be based on the 14-day case notification rate, vaccine uptake and testing rate.
The traffic light map serves mainly as an information tool, but also to coordinate measures for areas with particularly high circulation of the virus. Based on this map, EU countries should apply measures regarding travel to and from dark red areas, where the virus is circulating at very high levels. They should discourage non-essential travel and require persons arriving from those areas who are not in possession of a vaccination or recovery certificate to undergo a test prior to departure and to quarantine after arrival.
Certain exceptions to these measures should apply to travellers with an essential function or need, cross-border commuters and children under the age of 12.
When a Member State imposes restrictions in response to the emergence of a new variant, the Council, in close cooperation with the Commission and supported by the ECDC, should review the situation. The Commission, based on the regular assessment of new evidence on variants, may also suggest a discussion within the Council. Similar measures are also possible in case the epidemiological situation in a Member State or in an area within a Member State worsens quickly.
During the discussion, the Commission could propose that the Council agree on a coordinated approach regarding travel from the areas concerned. Any situation resulting in the adoption of measures should be reviewed regularly.
Common passenger locator form and data protection
Passenger locator forms play a key role to ensure effective contact tracing of travellers. Data exchanges between Member States' contact tracing authorities can be particularly important when passengers are crossing borders in close proximity to each other, such as in airplanes or in trains. In order for Member States to exchange relevant passenger data across borders, the Commission adopted two implementing acts in May and July 2021, thus providing the necessary legal conditions for processing such personal data and establishing a passenger locator form exchange platform. To support the digitalisation and harmonisation of passenger locator forms, the EU Healthy Gateways Joint Action developed a web application for an EU Digital Passenger Locator Form. Digital passenger locator forms combined with the passenger locator form exchange platform allow for easier and more rapid data collection and exchange between Member States, making contact tracing more effective and efficient.