Council lightens criteria to lift restrictions for third-country travellers
However, it sets out an “emergency brake” for possible risks posed by new variantsEuropost , Brussels
The Council adopted on Thursday an amending recommendation on the temporary restriction on non-essential travel into the EU. This responds to the ongoing vaccination campaigns by introducing certain waivers for vaccinated persons and easing the criteria to lift restrictions for third countries.
It takes into account the possible risks posed by new variants by setting out an emergency brake mechanism to quickly react to the emergence of a variant of interest or concern in a third country.
For restrictions on non-essential travel to be lifted for a given third country, under the new rules the number of COVID-19 cases per 100 000 inhabitants over the last 14 days is raised from 25 to 75. The progress in having the population vaccinated against the virus should also be taken into account.
To respond to the risk posed by new variants, the detection in a country of variants of interest should be considered together with variants of concern.
Other existing criteria continue to apply, including a stable or decreasing trend of new cases, the number of tests performed, a 4% positivity rate among all tests carried out, the overall response to COVID-19 in the country and the reliability of the available information. Reciprocity should continue to be taken into account on a case by case basis.
If Member States accept proof of vaccination to waive travel restrictions such as testing or quarantine, they should in principle lift restrictions on non-essential travel for third-country travellers who have received the last recommended dose of an EMA approved vaccine at least 14 days before arrival.
EU countries could also lift the restriction on non-essential travel to those who have received at least 14 days before the last recommended dose of a vaccine having completed the WHO emergency use listing process. Where lifting these restrictions, Member States should take into account reciprocity on a case by case basis.
Once adopted, the Covid-19 certificate regulation will provide the basis, for treating third country vaccination certificates equivalent to the EU’s certificate.
Until then, Member States should be able to accept third country certificates containing at least a minimum data set, in accordance with national law and taking into account the need to be able to verify the authenticity, validity and integrity of the certificate.
Where the epidemiological situation of a third country or region worsens quickly, in particular if a variant of concern or of interest has been detected, Member States should adopt an urgent, temporary restriction on all travel into the EU.
This emergency brake should not apply to EU citizens, long-term EU residents and certain categories of essential travellers, who should nevertheless be subject to appropriate testing and quarantine measures, even if fully vaccinated.
When a Member State applies such restrictions, the Council should urgently review the situation in a coordinated manner and in close cooperation with the Commission. Such restrictions should be reviewed at least every two weeks.