Travel restrictions

EU sets a mandatory 9-month vaccination validity for Covid-19 travel pass

The European Commission has adopted binding rules that will make the European Union Covid-19 certificate valid for travel nine months after the completion of the primary vaccination schedule.

EU flags flying in front of the European Commission headquarters in Brussels
EU flags flying in front of the European Commission headquarters in Brussels © Reuters

The proposal announced this Tuesday comes as several EU states have introduced additional requirements on travellers in a bid to reduce the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said earlier today that the European Commission was against additional requirements, and was assessing the measures.

The new rules will be mandatory on all 27 EU states from 1 February.

They can, however, be blocked by a qualified majority of EU governments or a simple majority of European Parliament members, but officials say there is sufficient support for such a move.

The rule replaces a non-binding recommendation the EU Commission put forward in November. 

"Proportionate" restrictions if necessary 

Once the rule comes into force, EU states will be obliged to let fully vaccinated travellers with a valid pass access their territory.

However, as an exception justified by a deteriorating situation, they could still impose further requirements, such as negative tests or quarantines, as long as they are proportionate.

Seven EU states are currently requiring fully vaccinated travellers from other EU countries to also show a negative Covid-19 test upon arrival - measures some see as damaging the credibility of the EU pass.

The states are Italy, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Latvia, Cyprus and Austria.

"We prefer to use - for the free movement in Europe only - the certificate without additional measures," Reynders said.

He also noted that the additional requirements could be justified by concerns caused by the spread of the Omicron variant, but governments had to prove they were proportionate and necessary.

Covid pass open-ended

The national measures are mostly limited to the Christmas period, although Italy's extend until the end of January.

The new rules apply only for international travel.

Governments will be able to have a different duration of the Covid-19 pass for access to events or indoor activities within their territories.

After a booster shot, the validity of the Covid-19 pass will reportedly be extended further without a set limit, because at the moment there is not enough information about the duration of protection from boosters.

A primary vaccination schedule for Covid-19 is currently composed in the EU of two shots of vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Moderna, or a single jab of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

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