Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) The European Commission and the EU Council have adopted new recommendations on travel restrictions in the coronavirus pandemic.
The new restrictions will facilitate travel and free movement in the bloc, the EC announced in a statement issued today.
Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, stated “since the start of the pandemic, we have put forward solutions to safeguard and facilitate safe and free movement in the context of health measures made necessary by the pandemic.”
She stressed the importance of coordinating restrictions at the EU level, asserting that the EU’s vaccine pass is essential for safety. Kyriakides said the fact that the authorities had issued a total of 1.2 billion vaccine passes attested to its success, describing it as “a true European success story that has gone global.”
She noted that EU member states had agreed that freedom of movement in the bloc should be linked to the possession of a vaccine pass. “It is important that member states follow up on this agreement and implement the rules agreed without delay”, she said.
Under the new rules, people with a vaccine pass will not face additional travel restrictions. Moreover, the Commission had made clear that “any measure restricting free movement must be non-discriminatory and proportionate.”
The EU Council declared that the new recommendations reflect higher vaccination rates and the number of issued vaccine passes, adding that the new rules will come into effect at the beginning of February.
According to the new rules, restrictions on free movement will be applied based on vaccine passes rather than “the situation at the regional level, with the exception of areas where the virus is circulating at very high levels.”
Vaccine passes will remain valid for 270 days after receiving the last dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or 180 days after recovery from the illness.
The Council stressed that children under 12, cross-border commuters, and “travelers with an essential function or need” should be exempt from travel restrictions.
Citing that the new approach is person-based in order to simplify the rules, the Council indicated that the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control should continue “to publish a map of member states’ regions indicating the potential risk of infection according to a traffic light system.”