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EU Recommends ‘Gradual Easing’ of Travel Restrictions But Only Children Under Six Exempted from Testing

EU Recommends ‘Gradual Easing’ of Travel Restrictions But Only Children Under Six Exempted from Testing

The European Commission (EC) has recommended that travel restrictions be ‘gradually ease[d],’ particularly for holders of the EU Digital COVID Certificate that will be introduced throughout the bloc from the beginning of July.

In a new list of proposals, the EC is also recommending the introduction of an ’emergency brake’ system in case of new variants of concern and wants to exempt children from travel-related testing, but only if they’re under six.

Key updates to the common approach to travel measures inside the EU, building on the colour-coded map published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC):

Fully vaccinated persons with vaccination certificates in line with the EU Digital COVID Certificate should be exempted from travel-related testing or quarantine 14 days after having received the last dose. The exemption should also apply to those who’ve only received the first dose of a two-dose vaccine.

The EU Digital COVID Certificate should also exempt those who’ve recovered from the virus within 180 days of a positive PCR test, as should those with a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of travel, or 48 hours for a rapid antigen test.

Traffic Light System

The proposals also called for the clarification of the traffic light system as follows:

    • Travellers from green areas: no restrictions
    • Travellers from orange areas: Member States could require a pre-departure test (rapid antigen or PCR).
    • Travellers from red areas: Member States could require travellers to undergo quarantine, unless they have a pre-departure test (rapid antigen or PCR).
    • Travellers from dark red areas: non-essential travel should be strongly discouraged. Requirement of testing and quarantine remain.

New Infection Thresholds

The proposals also called to raise the threshold of the ECDC map: For the areas marked in orange the proposal is to increase the threshold of 14-day cumulative COVID-19 case notification rate from 50 to 75. Similarly, for the red areas the proposal is to adjust the threshold range from current 50-150 to the new 75-150.

Children Under Six Exempted from Testing Protocols

To ensure family unity, minors travelling with parents should be exempted from quarantine when the parents do not need to undergo quarantine, for example due to vaccination. Children under 6 should also be exempted from travel-related testing.

The proposals to exempt only children under 6 from Covid testing for foreign travel will undoubtedly cause concern for the prospect of family travel this summer.

The cost of tests is already a major source of annoyance for many, including MEPs who argued that states should carry the burden for testing costs – or at least reduce the price considerably. But by capping the child exemption to only the very young, it will add a potentially huge expense to families looking to travel.

‘Smooth Rollout’ of EU Digital COVID Certificate

The EC also called for further efforts to ensure a smooth rollout of the EU Digital COVID Certificate, including encouraging member states – if possible – to use “existing possibilities under national law” to start issuing the certificates ahead of the application of the underlying legislation on 1 July.

“Where national law provides for the verification of COVID-19 certificates, holders of an EU Digital COVID Certificate could already make use of it when travelling,” the EC said in a statement.

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Fionn Davenport is the editor-in-chief of the ITTN group, including ITTN and ITTN Ireland. He's one of Ireland's best-known travel journalists and writers, with nearly 30 years' experience writing guidebooks for Lonely Planet and others.

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