1. What is the EU Digital COVID Certificate?
What are the main elements of the EU Digital COVID Certificate?
The EU Digital COVID Certificate system covers three different types of COVID-19 certificate: a vaccination certificate, a test certificate, and a certificate of recovery.
The EU Digital COVID Certificates are issued and used in all EU Member States to facilitate free movement during the COVID-19 pandemic. All EU citizens and their family members, as well as non-EU nationals legally staying or residing in the Member States and who have the right to travel to other Member States, are eligible to receive such certificates free of charge.
The EU Digital COVID Certificate only includes a minimum set of information necessary to confirm and verify the holder's vaccination, testing or recovery status.
Being vaccinated is not be a pre-condition to travel. All EU citizens have a fundamental right to free movement in the EU and this applies regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not.
What information does the EU Digital COVID Certificate include?
The information contained in the EU Digital COVID Certificate is limited to what is necessary to provide the certification requested. Such information includes name, date of birth, the certificate issuer and a unique identifier of the certificate. In addition:
- For a vaccination certificate: vaccine type and manufacturer, number of doses received, date of vaccination;
- For a test certificate: type of test, date and time of test, place and result;
- For a recovery certificate: date of positive test result, validity period.
For how long will the EU Digital COVID Certificate be in place?
The Regulation on the EU Digital COVID Certificate applies for 12 months, as from 1 July 2021.
The Commission will present a report to the European Parliament and the Council on the application of the Regulation three months before the end of application of the Regulation. Together with this report, the Commission could propose to extend the date of application of the Regulation, taking into account the evolution of the epidemiological situation of the pandemic.
2. How does the EU Digital COVID Certificate facilitate free movement?
How does the EU Digital COVID Certificate facilitate safe free movement?
Member States shall refrain from imposing additional travel restrictions on the holders of an EU Digital COVID Certificate, unless they are necessary and proportionate to safeguard public health. In such a case, the Member State must inform the Commission and all other Member States in a timely manner and provide reasons for such new measures.
The EU Digital COVID Certificate serves as proof of vaccination, testing and recovery, which can be used across EU Member States, and the EEA countries Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, as well as Switzerland. When travelling, every EU Digital COVID Certificate holder will have the same rights as citizens of the visited Member State who were vaccinated, tested or recovered from COVID-19.
On 14 June 2021, the Council updated the Recommendation on the coordination of free movement restrictions in the EU, on the basis of a proposal by the Commission, to make best use of the EU Digital COVID Certificate framework. Member States agreed that holders of vaccination and recovery certificates travelling within the EU should in principle not be subject to additional restrictions, such as testing for COVID-19 infection or quarantine. Persons with a valid test certificate in line with the EU Digital COVID Certificate should also be exempted from possible quarantine requirements. The European Commission collects the information of the various measures in place in the Member States, including on quarantine and testing requirements for travellers, at Re-open EU. The information is updated frequently and available in 24 languages. This should help you plan your travel in Europe, while staying safe and healthy.
How do you ensure that non-vaccinated people are not discriminated against when exercising their right to free movement?
To ensure that the right to free movement in the EU is respected and that there is no discrimination against individuals who are not vaccinated, the EU Digital COVID Certificate covers COVID-19 vaccination certificates, test certificates, and certificates for persons who have recovered from COVID-19. In this way, as many persons as possible will be able to benefit from an EU Digital COVID Certificate when travelling.
The aim of the EU Digital COVID Certificate is to facilitate free movement inside the EU. It is not a pre-condition to travel. The EU Digital COVID Certificate is not a travel document. Persons who are not vaccinated must be able to exercise their free movement rights the same way as those who are vaccinated, where necessary subject to proportionate limitations such as testing or quarantine/self-isolation.
Is it the Commission or Member States that can decide to impose vaccination, in particular for some specific professional groups such as healthcare workers?
The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented challenge, with far-reaching impacts on public health and all aspects of our life. The Commission continues to work closely with the EU Member States, supported by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). However, public health matters are the competence of EU Member States. National governments decide on the specific measures based on each country’s national epidemiological and social situation.
In particular, the responsibility for vaccination policies, programmes and services lies with Member States. This also applies to legislation on vaccination, including whether this should be mandatory or not. Any queries regarding Member States’ policies in this regard should thus be addressed to the responsible national authorities.
As far as Resolution 2361/2021 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe ‘Covid-19 vaccines: ethical, legal and practical considerations’ is concerned, it is important to note that this is not an instrument of EU law (the Council of Europe not being an EU institution).
How is the Commission supporting Member States in making COVID-19 tests more affordable?
To help ensure that tests are affordable for all citizens, the Commission has put €100 million at the disposal of Member States to provide for tests that qualify for the issuance of an EU Digital COVID certificate. This adds to the €100 million that had already been mobilised to purchase over 20 million tests, which have been delivered to the Member States in Spring 2021.
However, it is important to note that decisions as to the pricing of tests fall within the competence of Member States. If you have questions or particular views as to the policy adopted by your Member State of nationality or residence, you could consider contacting the responsible national authorities or your elected representative at national or regional level.
3. Obtaining an EU Digital COVID certificate
From whom should I receive an EU Digital COVID Certificate?
Vaccination certificates will be issued by the Member State where the vaccination has been administered.
Test certificates will be issued by the Member State where the test has taken place.
Recovery certificates will be issued by the Member State where the recovered person is located.
Member States should ensure that the certificates can be obtained easily and provide the necessary support to allow for equal access by all citizens.
If you face difficulties in obtaining an EU Digital COVID Certificate, you are encouraged to get in touch with the national authorities in your Member State of nationality/residence.
Which vaccines are accepted? What if I am vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine that has not yet been approved by the EU?
EU citizens and their family members, as well as long-term residents or legally staying visitors, should receive EU Digital COVID Certificates from the Member State where they have been vaccinated, indicating the vaccine administered.
When it comes to waiving free movement restrictions, Member States are obliged to accept vaccination certificates for vaccines that have received EU marketing authorisation.
To facilitate free movement, Member States may also decide to waive restrictions for holders of certificates indicating other vaccines. For example, they can choose to accept vaccination certificates relating to vaccines used in some Member States on an emergency basis or included in the WHO emergency list.
Rules on acceptance of vaccination certificates for vaccines without EU marketing authorisation will vary between the Member States – please check with the national authorities whether a particular Member State also accepts certificates indicating other vaccines.
Can the Digital COVID Certificate be issued already after the first vaccination dose?
Yes, a vaccination certificate will be issued by the Member State where the vaccine has been administered, also including after the first vaccination dose. Where the Member State’s vaccination schedule requires two doses, the first vaccination certificate will be marked “1/2” and the second vaccination certificate will be marked “2/2”. However, the first vaccination certificate marked “1/2” might not be accepted by the Member State for lifting travel restrictions.
The Regulation requires Member States to accept vaccination certificates under the same conditions, meaning that, for example, where a Member State decides to lift travel restrictions for its own citizens who have a certificate for the first dose of a two-dose vaccine which has received EU-wide marketing authorisation, it has to extend the same treatment to other EU citizens.
I have recovered from COVID-19 and my Member State has decided to offer only one dose of a two-dose vaccine to me. Will I be able to benefit from the Digital COVID Certificate?
It is for Member States to decide whether to administer only one dose of a two-dose vaccine to recovered persons. Where they do so, the vaccination certificate should indicate that the vaccination course has been completed following the administration of one dose. This is marked in the vaccination certificate as “1/1”.
The updated Recommendation on the coordination of free movement restrictions in the EU provides that people who have received a single dose of a two-dose vaccine after having previously infected with COVID-19 should be considered fully vaccinated for the purpose of travel.
Can I obtain an EU Digital COVID Certificate after having received the first vaccine dose in one Member State and the second dose in another Member State?
Vaccination certificates will be issued by the Member State where the vaccination has been administered.
Where citizens have been vaccinated in two different Member States, the first Member State must issue an EU Digital COVID Certificate indicating the first dose and second Member State must issue, upon proof of the first dose of a 2-dose vaccine in another Member State, an EU Digital COVID Certificate indicating the second dose (the certificate will be marked “2/2”).
Citizens must provide the authorities in the second Member State with information on the first dose received in the first Member State.
Where mistakes occur, citizens are encouraged to get in touch with their national authorities to have them corrected.
Can I obtain a recovery certificate on the basis of an antibody test?
EU law on the EU Digital COVID Certificate provides that certificates of recovery (indicating that a person has recovered from an infection with COVID-19) should only be issued following a positive nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) such as RT-PCR test, as the current level of scientific knowledge does not allow for the issuance of certificates of recovery based on antibody tests. In particular, the detection and quantification of antibodies cannot be used as a direct indication of protective immunity and there is no EU-wide benchmarking and comparison between different antibody tests.
Although a positive antibody test result can be a proof of a past infection, it cannot provide any indication of the time of infection. Therefore, it is impossible to determine the validity period of the recovery certificate. Even if antibody tests provide some evidence of an immune response, it is not known if the antibodies offer sufficient protection or for how long such protection would last. It may be that soon after a positive antibody test, the antibodies become undetectable. It is also still unknown whether the antibodies detected by commercial tests currently in use would prevent infection with new SARS-CoV-2 variants. There are a huge number of antibody tests and a comparison of their results is extremely difficult.
On 10 May 2021, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) issued a technical note to inform the discussions on the possible use of antibody tests in the context of the EU Digital COVID Certificate. ECDC will continue their monitoring of antibody tests and their usage.
It is important to note that the EU Digital COVID Certificate ensures that as many persons as possible are able to benefit when travelling within the EU, by including vaccination, test and recovery certificates. A person who has recovered and who has not done a PCR test at the time of infection can of course still travel. Where an EU Digital COVID Certificate is needed to avoid quarantine or testing requirements upon arrival, he or she can travel based on a vaccination certificate or a negative test certificate.
Can I obtain a recovery certificate after being diagnosed with a rapid antigen test (RAT)?
Not at the moment. The Regulation on the EU Digital COVID Certificate provides that recovery certificates should be issued at the earliest 11 days after the date on which a person was first subject to a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) such as RT-PCR test, due to their reliability.
Based on scientific guidance, the Commission may reassess the situation at a later stage and decide by means of a delegated act to allow the issuance of recovery certificates on the basis of a positive rapid antigen test, an antibody test, including a serological test for antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, or any other scientifically validated method.
What should I do if I cannot use the EU Digital COVID Certificate because of name disparities between the certificate and my identity documents?
The EU Digital COVID Certificate must include surname(s) and forename(s) of the holder, which should match the name stated in travel documents, such as identity cards or passports.
Issues arose in some Member States with disparities between the name mentioned in the travel document and the name indicated in the EU Digital COVID Certificate. On 26 July 2021, a Corrigendum related to the French version of Regulation (EU)2021/953 was published to further clarify that certificates should include “nom(s) et prénom(s)” instead of “nom(s) de famille et prénom(s)”.
Where mistakes occur, citizens are encouraged to get in touch with their national authorities to have them corrected.
Can children get an EU Digital COVID Certificate?
Yes, children can get an EU Digital COVID Certificate.
Two EU authorised vaccines can currently be used for children aged 12-17 based on a positive scientific assessment of the European Medicines Agency (EMA): the BioNTech Pfizer vaccine Comirnaty and the Moderna vaccine Spikevax. Children can also receive a test or recovery certificate. These certificates could also be received by their parents and stored in the parents' smartphone app.
The updated Recommendation on the coordination of free movement restrictions in the EU provides that 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 12 should also be exempted from travel-related testing.
What is the cost of the EU Digital COVID Certificates?
The EU Digital COVID Certificates are free of charge, as they should be easily available to everyone.
4. Using the EU Digital COVID Certificate for travel
How does the EU Digital COVID Certificate work across the EU?
The EU Digital COVID Certificate contains a QR code with a digital signature to protect it against falsification. When the certificate is checked, the QR code is scanned and the signature verified.
Each issuing body (e.g. a hospital, a test centre, a health authority) has its own digital signature key. All of these are stored in a secure database in each country.
On 1 June 2021, the Commission activated a gateway through which all certificate signatures can be verified across the EU. The personal data of the certificate holder does not pass through the gateway, as this is not necessary to verify the digital signature.
Which COVID-19 tests will be accepted?
To ensure the reliability of the test result, only the so-called NAAT tests (including RT-PCR tests) and the rapid antigen tests featured in the common list established on the basis of Council Recommendation 2021/C 24/01 should be eligible for a test certificate issued on the basis of the EU Digital COVID Certificate Regulation.
However, it is left to each Member State to decide whether it accepts rapid antigen tests, or only NAAT tests (such as RT-PCR tests).
On 21 January 2021, the Council adopted a recommendation setting a common framework for the use of rapid antigen tests and the mutual recognition of COVID-19 test results across the EU. On 23 July 2021, the EU Health Security Committee agreed on the latest update of the common list of COVID-19 rapid antigen tests (RATs) and an addendum with those excluded or rejected. 138 rapid antigen tests are now included in the common list. The Health Security Committee also agreed to simplify the procedure for updating the list, making it easier for manufacturers to submit data on rapid antigen tests available on the market here.
Do Member States have to accept anyone travelling with PCR/Rapid antigen test?
If a Member State accepts a test certificate for waiving travel restrictions, it must also accept holders of an EU Digital COVID test certificate under the same conditions. If a Member State lifts restrictions only for holders of PCR tests, it is not required to accept rapid antigen tests. However, if it accepts rapid antigen tests then it must also accept rapid antigen test certificates issued by another Member State.
Why are self-tests not included?
Self-tests are not performed in controlled conditions and, for the time being, are considered to be less reliable.
Is there a minimum or maximum validity of the certificates?
Vaccination or test certificates do not indicate an expiry date – they continue to provide proof that a medical event, namely a vaccination or a test for SARS-CoV-2 infection, took place at a certain point in time. Recovery certificates, however, will expire at the latest after 180 days.
At the same time, Member States may establish the rules as to how long the certificates are accepted. For example, as far as test certificates are concerned, Member States may require that PCR/NAAT test results have been obtained not more than 72 hours before arrival and rapid antigen tests not more than 48 hours before arrival.
It is up to Member States to provide clear, comprehensive and timely information on all aspects covered by the EU Digital COVID Certificate, also on the validity of the certificate.
Why am I still sometimes required to take COVID-19 tests or undergo quarantine despite being vaccinated or having recovered and possessing an EU Digital COVID Certificate?
EU law on the EU Digital COVID Certificate states that, where Member States waive certain restrictions on free movement for persons in possession of proof of vaccination, test or recovery, the EU Digital COVID Certificate will allow citizens to benefit from these exemptions. Member States may not impose additional restrictions to free movement, unless they are necessary and proportionate for the purpose of safeguarding public health.
In addition, on 14 June 2021, the Member States agreed in the Council of the EU to adapt a Recommendation on the coordination of free movement restrictions in the EU. The amended Recommendation provides for a gradual easing of travel restrictions, most importantly for EU Digital COVID Certificate holders. On this basis, holders of vaccination and recovery certificates travelling within the EU should in principle not be subject to restrictions, such as travel-related testing, self-isolation or quarantine. Furthermore, persons with a valid test certificate in line with the EU Digital COVID Certificate should be exempted from possible quarantine requirements.
However, Member States may impose quarantine or self-isolation, a test for SARS-CoV-2 infection, or other restrictions on the holders of EU Digital COVID Certificates arriving from specific Member States, notably where the epidemiological situation in that Member State or in a region within that Member State worsens quickly, in particular as a result of a SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern or interest.
The Commission is in dialogue with the Member States to assist the coordination of travel measures at national level, and to ensure that additional travel measures affecting free movement are in line with the EU law principles of proportionality and non-discrimination.
Where can I find information about travel restrictions?
Information is available on the ‘Re-open EU' web platform, with a link to the weekly-updated map by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
What if I experience problems with an airline despite being vaccinated and presenting the EU Digital COVID Certificate?
Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 on air passenger rights provides, as a general rule, that passengers who are denied boarding by the airline against their will, although they have presented themselves in time for check-in, have the right to compensation, the right to choose between reimbursement and re-routing, as well as the right to care. However, pursuant to that Regulation, passengers do not enjoy those statutory rights if boarding is denied on reasonable grounds related to health, safety or security, or inadequate travel documentation. You will find more information on your air passenger rights, as well as on how to claim these rights, on the Your Europe website.
What if I experience problems when travelling by plane, for example because of a lack of clarity of how the EU Digital COVID Certificate is verified and by whom, or due to a duplication of checks?
The decision on if and how to verify the EU Digital COVID Certificate lies with the Member States. To make the most of the positive contribution of the EU Digital COVID Certificate to the free movement of citizens and the recovery of the air transport sector, the Commission has therefore published guidelines and recommendations for Member States. For example, it encourages Member States to verify the certificates only once and preferably only during the airline online check-in prior to departure. This will avoid crowding and queues at airports and facilitate the exercise of the right to free movement during the COVID-19 pandemic.
5. Protection of personal data
How is my personal data protected?
A very high level of data protection is of particular importance.
The EU Digital COVID Certificate uses a decentralised system, which does not require a central EU database or the exchange of personal data among authorities. In addition, the data accessed for verifications must not be kept by the verifier following the check (e.g. when boarding a flight). The issuer (e.g. vaccination centre) may keep data for no longer than is necessary for its purpose and in no case longer than the period for which the certificates may be used to exercise the right to free movement.
In designing the system, great care was taken to minimise the amount of personal data in it. For example, the list of data categories is shorter than what is in the WHO “yellow booklet” used in some Member States to document vaccinations. Data protection by design is also important for the technical implementation. For example, the guidelines on technical specifications require that the verifier interface show the result of the verification in such a way that only the minimum required information is displayed. In case of successful verification, the information should be limited to the indication that the certificate has been verified successfully, and minimum personal details necessary to link the certificate to the holder. In case of a failed verification, the interface should only display the reason for the failure, including details that prevent the successful verification.
6. Interoperability – inside and outside the EU
How is interoperability of the EU Digital COVID Certificates ensured?
Interoperability is achieved by making sure that the different types of EU Digital COVID Certificates (vaccination, test, and recovery) are standardised according to commonly agreed policies, rules and specifications.
In practical terms, the Commission has set up a gateway through which digital signature keys can be exchanged between Member States, so that the EU Digital COVID Certificates can be verified across the EU.
What is the EU gateway exactly?
The EU gateway is a digital infrastructure connecting national databases that contain public signature keys. This allows digital signatures included in the QR codes of the certificates to be verified across the EU. The personal data of the certificate holder does not pass through the gateway, as this is not necessary to verify the digital signature. The EU gateway was set-up by T-Systems and SAP and is hosted at the Commission's data centre in Luxembourg.
Is the EU Digital COVID Certificate compatible with other systems developed at international level?
The Commission is working to make sure that the certificates are compatible with systems in countries outside the EU. The proposal is open to global initiatives and takes into account ongoing efforts of the WHO and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to establish specifications and guidance for using digital technologies for documenting vaccination status. Non-EU countries are encouraged to recognise the EU Digital COVID Certificate when lifting restrictions on non-essential travel. The Certificates could serve as an example for other certificates currently being developed around the world.
The Regulation allows the Commission to issue decisions recognising certificates issued by non-EU countries to EU citizens and their family members, where such certificates meet quality standards and are interoperable with the EU trust framework.
7. Getting an EU Digital COVID Certificate when vaccinated outside the EU
Can I obtain a vaccination certificate when my vaccination took place outside the EU?
There are two solutions for EU citizens and their family members, as well as long-term residents or legally staying visitors, who have been vaccinated outside the EU, to obtain the EU Digital COVID Certificate.
First, the “exchange of certificates” route: EU citizens and their family members, as well as long-term residents or legally staying visitors, who have been vaccinated in a third country with a vaccine used in the EU can receive an EU Digital COVID Certificate if they provide reliable proof of vaccination to the authorities of a Member State. This option is available upon request to be addressed to national authorities. Please note that Member States are not obliged to offer this possibility, so we advise you to check with the authorities of your Member State of nationality or residence if and how this exchange is possible.
Second, the “equivalence decision” route: upon express request of a third country, and where the Commission is satisfied that a third country issues interoperable certificates in compliance with the necessary technical standards, the Commission can issue an “equivalence decision” regarding that country. Then, certificates issued by that country must be directly accepted under the same conditions as the EU Digital COVID Certificates.
What are the countries outside the EU that issue COVID certificates regarded as equivalent to the EU COVID certificates?
The Commission has published a list of the third countries already connected to the EU Digital COVID Certificate system.
This means that those countries are connected to the EU's system and that the COVID certificates they issue are accepted in the EU under the same conditions as the EU Digital COVID Certificate. In practice, holders of these certificates can use these certificates under the same conditions as holders of an EU Digital COVID Certificate. At the same time, those countries have agreed to accept the EU Digital COVID Certificate for travel from the EU to their countries. Their participation in the EU’s Digital COVID Certificate will thus facilitate safe travel to and from the EU.
I have been vaccinated in a third country with a vaccine authorised in that third country. Will my certificate be valid in the EU?
For persons who have been vaccinated in a third country and who have received an EU Digital COVID Certificate or who have received a third-country certificate deemed equivalent to the EU Digital COVID Certificate, the same principles regarding the waiving of restrictions apply as to persons vaccinated in the EU (see previous question).
At the same time, third countries do not administer vaccines based on EU approval, but rather on the basis of their own assessment (or on the basis of World Health Organization approval). Therefore, in order to waive travel restrictions, it is necessary to determine whether a vaccine against COVID-19 administered by a third country corresponds to an EU-authorised vaccine.
To assist Member States in their approach, the Commission supported discussions in the Health Security Committee concerning the vaccines that can be considered as corresponding to those having received EU approval.
The Commission has published an overview of vaccines against COVID-19 administered by third countries for which most EU Member States/EEA countries would waive travel restrictions if they are indicated in an EU Digital COVID Certificate or a third-country certificate whose equivalence has been established: The overview also includes a list of vaccines sublicensed by AstraZeneca to other companies, for which several Member States waive travel restrictions as they consider them as corresponding to the vaccines that had received EU approval.
You can find the overview on 'Re-open EU'. This list may be periodically reviewed if new information becomes available.
8. Non-EU nationals traveling to the EU
Can the EU Digital COVID Certificate facilitate travel to the EU from non-EU countries?
On 20 May 2021, the Council adopted a revised Recommendation updating the approach to travel from outside the EU. The Council Recommendation aims to ease the current restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU taking into account the progress of vaccination campaigns and developments in the epidemiological situation worldwide.
Where the Commission is satisfied that a non-EU country issues certificates in compliance with standards and systems, which are interoperable with the EU system, the Commission can adopt a decision on the basis of which such non-EU country certificates would be accepted under the same conditions as EU Digital COVID Certificates.
9. Use of COVID-19 certificates on a domestic level
Can I be obliged to be in possession of a COVID-19 certificate to attend public events, to go to the cinema, the theatre, etc.?
EU law on the EU Digital COVID Certificate covers the use of the certificate to facilitate travel within the Union during the COVID-19 pandemic. It does not prescribe or prohibit other uses for the certificate.
The use of COVID-19 certificates for domestic purposes, such as access to events or venues, goes beyond the scope of EU law on the EU Digital COVID Certificate. Where Member States decide to use COVID-19 certificates for other purposes, this must be provided for in national law, which must comply, among others, with data protection requirements.
Where a Member State has established a system of COVID-19 certificates for domestic purposes, it should ensure that the EU Digital COVID Certificates can also be used and are fully accepted. This is to make sure that travellers going to another Member State do not have to obtain an additional national certificate.
If you have questions or particular views about the use of the EU Digital COVID Certificates for such other purposes, you could consider contacting the national authorities in your Member State of nationality/residence or your elected representative at national or regional level.
10. Latest update regarding the coordination of COVID-related measures restricting free movement in the European Union
Why was the Council Recommendation (EU) 2020/1475 on the coordination of free movement restrictions adopted in the first place?
To limit the spread of the coronavirus outbreak in the course of 2020, the EU's 27 Member States have adopted various measures, some of which have had an impact on citizens' right to move freely across the European Union, such as requirements to undergo quarantine or coronavirus test.
While the measures are intended to safeguard the health and wellbeing of citizens, they have serious consequences for the economy and citizens' rights. The right of European citizens to move and reside freely within the European Union is one of the most cherished achievements of the European Union, as well as an important driver of our economy.
A well-coordinated, predictable and transparent approach to the adoption of restrictions on freedom of movement is necessary to safeguard the health of citizens as well as maintain free movement within the EU, under safe conditions. This is important for the millions of citizens who rely on cross-border travel every day, and crucial for our efforts to safely re-build the economy.
For this purpose, in October 2020, the Member States adopted a Council Recommendation on the coordination of free movement restrictions in the EU.
The Council Recommendation established a common approach on the following key points: the application of common criteria when deciding whether to introduce restrictions to free movement; a mapping of the risk of COVID-19 transmission, published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), based on an agreed colour code; and a coordinated approach as to the measures, if any, which could be applied to persons moving between different areas.
Why did the Commission propose to update the Recommendation?
As the epidemiological situation was improving and vaccination campaigns were speeding up all over the EU, and to make best use of the EU Digital COVID Certificate framework, the Commission proposed to update the Council Recommendation on the coordination of free movement restrictions in the EU in May 2021. This update was adopted by the Council on 14 June 2021.
What are the main changes introduced by the latest update of the Council Recommendation?
- Fully vaccinated persons with the EU Digital COVID Certificate should be exempted from travel-related testing or quarantine 14 days after having received the last dose of a COVID-19 vaccine approved for the entire EU. This should also cover recovered persons having received a single dose of a 2-dose vaccine. Member States could also lift such additional restrictions after the first dose of a 2-dose series, while taking into account the impact of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern or interest on vaccine effectiveness after the administration of only one dose.
- Recovered persons 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 negative test in the EU Digital COVID Certificate format should be exempted from possible quarantine requirements, except when they come from areas heavily affected by the virus (more details below). The Member States agreed on 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 can re-introduce travel measures for vaccinated and recovered persons if the epidemiological situation deteriorates rapidly, in particular due to a high prevalence of coronavirus variants of concern or interest.
- To ensure family unity, minors travelling with parents or other accompanying persons should be exempted from quarantine when the accompanying persons do not need to undergo quarantine, for example due to vaccination. Children under 12 years of age should also be exempted from travel-related testing.
Where can I find information about travel restrictions?
Information is available on the ‘Re-open EU' web platform, with a link to the weekly-updated map by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
What are the criteria used by the ECDC to mark a region as green, orange, red, dark red or grey?
- the ‘14-day cumulative coronavirus case notification rate', which is the total number of newly notified coronavirus cases per 100 000 people in the last 14 days;
- the ‘test positivity rate', which is the percentage of positive tests for coronavirus infection during the last week;
- the ‘testing rate', which is the number of tests for coronavirus infection per 100 000 people during the last week.
What determines whether a ‘red' zone is red etc.?
What happens if I travel from a green, orange, red or dark red zone?
If you are vaccinated or recovered and you have an EU Digital COVID Certificate, you should not be required to be tested or quarantine independent of the colour of the area you are travelling from.
If you are not fully vaccinated or recovered, you might be subject to certain measures depending on the colour of the area you are travelling from:
- if you are travelling from a ‘green' area, no restrictions should be applied.
- if you are travelling from an ‘orange' area, you might be required to be in the possession of a negative test in line with the EU Digital COVID Certificate. If you do not have a test, you could be required to be tested after arrival.
- if you are travelling from a ‘red' area, you should be in the possession of a negative test in line with the EU Digital COVID Certificate. If you do not have one, you could be required to quarantine until a negative test result is obtained after arrival, unless you develop COVID-19 symptoms.
- if you are travelling from a ‘dark red' area, you should be required to undergo both a pre-departure test and quarantine. Travelling from a “dark red area” is still strongly discouraged.
Emergency brake: Where the epidemiological situation in a region within a Member State or in a Member State deteriorates rapidly, in particular due to a high prevalence of variants of concern or interest that are not already widespread in the EU, Member States could trigger an emergency brake. On this basis, Member States should, exceptionally and temporarily, also require vaccinated or recovered persons to undergo a test and/or quarantine. Wherever possible, such measures should be limited to the regional level.
What if I am not yet ‘fully vaccinated', for example because I have only received one dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine so far?
14 days after full vaccination is the baseline that every Member State should accept. However, Member States can also decide whether partially vaccinated persons are already exempted from travel-related tests or quarantine, taking into account the impact that variants of concern or interest can have on vaccine effectiveness and which may result in particularly low protection after the administration of only one dose of a 2-course vaccine.
To demonstrate that you are partially vaccinated, you will be able to obtain an EU Digital COVID Certificate already after the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Which countries does the Recommendation apply to?
The Recommendation applies to all EU Member States, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
I am a lorry driver/nurse/student/diplomat/journalist – do I have to undergo quarantine if I cross a border? I need to go home because my mother is unwell, do I need to quarantine?
If you are vaccinated or recovered and you have an EU Digital COVID Certificate, you should not be required to be tested or quarantine independently of the colour of the area you are travelling from.
If you have an essential reason to travel, you will not be required to undergo quarantine, even if you are not vaccinated or recovered. This is because the EU recognises that while we must protect ourselves from the spread of the virus, there are important reasons for which EU citizens need to use their right to free movement in an unrestricted way.
The Member States have agreed that the following categories of travellers will be exempt from the requirement to undergo quarantine measures when fulfilling their essential function or need:
- workers or self-employed people exercising critical occupations including health care workers, frontier and posted workers as well as seasonal workers as referred to in the Commission Guidelines;
- transport workers or transport service providers, including drivers of freight vehicles carrying goods for use in the territory as well as those merely transiting;
- patients travelling for imperative medical reasons;
- pupils, students and trainees who travel abroad on a daily basis;
- people travelling for imperative family or business reasons;
- diplomats, staff of international organisations and people invited by international organisations whose physical presence is required for the well-functioning of these organisations, military personnel and police officers, and humanitarian aid workers and civil protection personnel in the exercise of their functions;
- passengers in transit;
- journalists, when performing their duties.
However, essential travellers, who are not yet vaccinated or recovered, may be required to undergo quarantine when arriving from a ‘dark red' area, provided that this does not have a disproportionate impact on the exercise of their function or need. This does not apply to transport workers, who should always be exempted from quarantine.
I live in a border region and I have to cross the border daily or frequently as part of my daily life. How is this taken into account?
Member States agreed that persons living in border regions and travelling across the border on a daily or frequent basis for the purposes of work, business, education, family, medical care or caregiving should not be required to undergo a test or quarantine, in particular persons exercising critical functions or essential for critical infrastructure.
If a testing requirement on cross-border travel is introduced in these regions, the frequency and type of tests on such persons should be proportionate. If the epidemiological situation on both sides of the border is comparable, no travel-related testing requirement should be imposed. In addition, if you are vaccinated or recovered and you have an EU Digital COVID Certificate, you should not be required to be tested.
Do restrictive measures apply if I just drive through a country? Or stop at a petrol station? Or change trains?
Travellers in transit should not be subject to restrictive measures such as testing or quarantine.