| 27 May 2024, Monday |

EU sets binding 9-month validity of vaccinations for COVID-19 travel pass

The European Commission enacted guidelines on Tuesday that will make the European Union COVID-19 certificate valid for travel nine months after the initial immunization schedule has been completed.

The idea comes as some EU countries impose new travel restrictions in an effort to curb the spread of the Omicron coronavirus strain. The EU Commission, according to EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders, is opposed to extra requirements and is evaluating the measures.

The new laws will take effect on February 1st and will apply to all 27 EU member states. A qualified majority of EU states or a simple majority of European Parliament members may veto the regulation, but officials say there is enough backing for it.

The rule supersedes a non-binding suggestion issued by the European Commission in November.

EU states will be required to allow fully vaccinated tourists with a valid pass entrance to their territory once the law takes effect. They might, however, impose additional criteria, such as negative testing or quarantines, as an exception warranted by a worsening situation, as long as they are appropriate.

Seven EU states are currently requiring fully vaccinated travelers 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 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.

The Commission was still assessing the measures, Reynders said, adding that infringements proceedings for time-limited restrictions made little sense.

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 be extended further without a set limit, because at the moment there is not enough information about the duration of protection from boosters, an EU official said.

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.

  • Reuters