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EU countries agree to simplify travel rules with Covid certificates

EU countries have agreed to make it easier for anyone with an EU Covid-19 certificate to travel within the bloc without having to face any further restrictions such as tests or quarantine.

A customer shows her EU Covid-19 certificate
EU countries agree to simplify travel rules with Covid certificates Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

The EU council, made up of member states has agreed a new recommendation, that countries should base their travel rules on an individual case rather than the region they are travelling from.

That would mean those with an EU Covid certificate, which proves vaccination, recovery or a negative test would be allowed to travel freely within the EU or Schengen zone without the need for extra tests or quarantine, even if they were coming from a country with high Covid infection rates.

This refers only to travel, and not to the domestic health or vaccine passes that many EU countries now require to access venues such as bars.

The aim of the recommendation is to “take into account the advantage of the individual situation of people, especially vaccinated people, and limit for them as much as possible travel restrictions in Europe,” France’s European Affairs Secretary Clément Beaune said.

The recommendation is set to come into force on February 1st, but it is non-binding so individual EU countries would be free to impose whatever travel restrictions they wish if they feel the need.

The EU created its Covid-19 certificate scheme to try to ensure free movement throughout the bloc but as infections spiked again in the winter certain countries chose to reimpose extra restrictions on all travellers.

In December Italy tightened travel restrictions for arrivals from other countries within the European Union.

All travellers to Italy from other EU countries have been forced to take a coronavirus test before departure and unvaccinated arrivals must quarantine for five days. That rule is in place until at least February 1st when it may be replaced by the EU’s new recommendation.

Under the EU’s recommendations from February 1st travellers should be able to freely travel to another EU country if they have had their primary course of vaccination a maximum of 270 days ago (roughly nine months) or if they have received their booster shot.

Those who have recovered from Covid in the last 180 days, and passengers who have had a PCR test 72 hours before arriving or an antigen test 24 hours before should also be allowed to enter without any further test requirements or need to quarantine.

Those without an EU Covid certificates could face extra testing requirements, although the EU recommends essential workers, cross-border commuters and children under 12 should be completely exempt.

However the one exception is if a country is classed “dark red” on the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s colour-coded risk map. In this case country’s could impose extra travel rules even on the vaccinated.

Given the spike in Omicron cases most of the EU is currently coloured dark red. But the map will soon be modified to take into account a country’s vaccination rates when determining risk level.

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EXPLAINED: What can I do if I miss my flight due to Sweden’s airport chaos?

Stockholm Arlanda Airport is once again suffering hour-long queues for security due to a surge in travel and personnel shortages. What can you do if you miss your flight?

EXPLAINED: What can I do if I miss my flight due to Sweden's airport chaos?

What’s the situation at Arlanda over the Ascension Day weekend? 

According to the airport operator Svedavia, the worst peak for the long weekend is probably over. “Today looks good with no long waiting time at Arlanda,” Ellen Laurin, the company’s press officer, told The Local on Friday. “Yesterday morning [Thusday], we had a morning peak before nine in the morning, and the rest of the day was OK.” 

According to Swedavia’s website, waiting times at security were less than five minutes on Friday morning.  

However, she warned that there could once again be big queues on Sunday when those who have travelled to Sweden over the long weekend make their way home. 

“Sunday is a big travel day when people will fly home again. There could be queues at peak times,” she said. “We recommend that passengers have a close contact with their airline for information about their flight. It is important to have extra time at the airport and to be prepared.  

READ ALSO: What’s behind the queues at Arlanda Airport? 

Which airports in other countries have problems? 

Arlanda is not the only airport facing problems due to delays staffing up again after the pandemic. On Friday morning, Twitter users were complaining of two-hour queues at the border control at Heathrow Airport in the UK, while at the UK’s Manchester Airport, passengers were reporting queues for security of up to two hours on Thursday. 

Dublin Airport is also facing regular two-hour queues at security. Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport had a 1km security queue on Thursday, pushing the Dutch airline KLM to cancel flights. 

Can I get compensation or insurance payments if I missed my flight due to the queues? 

The SAS airline has already underlined that it is their customers’ responsibility to make sure that they arrive at the airport in sufficiently good time to make their flight. 

“To be certain you can come with us, you should be in good time, and if you are in good time, you will manage to get your flight,” she told state broadcaster SR. “It is always the customer’s responsibility to be on your way as early as is necessary.”

People who miss flights are also likely to struggle to get payouts from travel insurance, warned Gabriella Hallberg, an expert on travel insurance at the Swedish Consumers’ Insurance Bureau. 

“If you’re at the airport and are hit by security controls that take a very long time, they consider that it is the consumer themselves who have not planned their journey,” she told SR

She said that it might be possible to find an insurance company that is willing to insure against flights missed due to security queues. 

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