As the pandemic ebbs and the holiday season approaches, the EU executive direct efforts in trying to stop the chaos with the travel restrictions around Europe. On Monday, it proposed to Member States updated recommendations for coordination of free movement restrictions in the EU, posed due to COVID-19.

The Commission advises Member States to gradually ease travel measures, accenting on the holders of the EU Digital COVID Certificate.

Travellers, who are holding vaccination certificates should be exempted from testing or quarantine 14 days after having received the second dose.

This should also apply to recovered persons having received a single dose of a 2-jab vaccine.       

Recovered persons, possessing EU Digital COVID Certificate should be exempted from travel-related testing or quarantine during the first 180 days after a positive PCR test.

Also, travellers with a valid negative test in their EU Digital COVID Certificate should be exempted from possible quarantine requirements.

The proposed validity period for PCR tests is 72 hours and if rapid antigen tests is accepted by a Member State – it should be taken no later than 48 hours before the travel.

‘Emergency brake’ is among the suggested tools, giving the EU countries option to re-introduce travel measures for vaccinated and recovered persons if the epidemiological situation worsens rapidly or where a high prevalence of variants has been reported.

The EC also recommends to EU countries not to impose any restrictions for travellers from green areas. For those coming from orange areas, Member States could require a pre-departure rapid antigen or PCR test.

Member States could ask travellers from red zone to undergo quarantine, unless they have pre-departure rapid antigen or PCR test.

Non-essential travel should be strongly discouraged from dark red areas, and requirement of testing and quarantine remain.

Minors travelling with parents should be exempted from quarantine when the parents do not need to undertake such, for example due to vaccination. Children under six should also be exempted from testing.

The ECDC map will also undergo refashion in view of the epidemiological situation and progress on vaccination.

For orange areas the proposal is to increase the threshold of 14-day cumulative COVID-19 case notification rate from 50 to 75. For the red areas the threshold range should be adjusted from current 50-150 to the new 75-150.

Didier Reynders, Commissioner for Justice commented that 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, he said pointing out that 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,” Commissioner Reynders said.

The EC as well calls for further efforts to ensure a smooth rollout of the EU Digital COVID Certificate. To the maximum extent possible, EU27 should make use 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.

On Tuesday, the EC will launch the EU gateway storing the public keys needed for the verification of an EU Digital COVID Certificate, on 1 June.