The European Union will recommend a 9-month time limit on the validity of COVID-19 vaccines for travel into the bloc, meaning many travelers will require booster jabs to enter.
The European Commission will propose that all EU member states should continue to welcome all travelers inoculated with shots approved by the EU. The proposals also call for nations to reopen by the 10th January to all tourists with vaccines approved by the WHO.
EU governments are pushing for the bloc to smooth out differences in rules to help safeguard the ability to travel after governments employed contrasting approaches to how long vaccinations are valid and how to manage booster shots.
For example, Austria, Switzerland, and Croatia all have different approaches to the validity of vaccines.
The New Rules
As case numbers grow in Europe, the EU’s executive arm is planning to discontinue the white list of nations allowed to enter the EU regardless of vaccination status. From March 1st, vaccinated travelers with proof of recovery could enter the bloc with an EU digital Covid certificate.
What’s more, the new rules would allow children between 6 and 17 years old to enter the EU with a negative PCR test even if they’re not vaccinated. EU member states may require additional testing upon arrival, including self-isolation and quarantine depending on the choice of individual member states.
The commission calls the new approach a “streamlined approach” which would make travel dependent on the status of the traveler instead of the country of origin. The EU has implemented the March timeframe to give non-EU nations the time to increase the vaccination rates.
As an additional safeguard, the EU would require proof of a negative PCR test for all travelers vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine that’s not approved by Europe’s drug regulator.
Many nations could qualify due to a small increase in the threshold of the 14-day cumulative Covid case notification rate, from 75 to 100 cases per 100,000 people. In addition, the changes would include an increase in tests per week from 300 tests to 600 tests per 100,000 people.
The Booster Jab Rules
The EU will place a 9-month validity on all vaccines. Therefore, if the plans begin in March 2022, any traveler fully vaccinated last summer will likely require a third vaccination dose to enter the bloc without restrictions.
Currently, Croatia has a maximum vaccine validity of 365 days. It became the world’s first nation last August to introduce a maximum vaccine validity. Austria also decided on a 9-month vaccination validity from November 8, 2021.
As of now, any traveler who was fully vaccinated more than 9 months ago will require a booster jab to enter bars, restaurants, and entertainment venues. Switzerland decided they won’t class any travelers as fully vaccinated 365 days after their final dose.
Greece has declared all travelers over 60 must get their booster shot within the next month or they won’t qualify for the vaccine passport. Therefore, travelers over 60 without the booster jab wouldn’t be able to enter indoor venues.
The news comes as cases of COVID-19 rise in Europe following a predicted fourth wave across the continent over Christmas. Various nations, including Germany, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands are considering full lockdowns, and Austria and Slovakia entered a full lockdown in the previous week.
The new proposals come as Europe’s travel industry is starting to struggle due to rising restrictions. Micheal O’Leary, the CEO of Ryanair, said “Up until last weekend, things were going great”
“I think we’re in for a fraught period between now and Christmas where it looks like Europe is going to get very nervous again at the worst time of the year when people are making their Christmas travel plans.
“I think it’s inevitable we will undermine confidence between now and Christmas, and that will disrupt Christmas and also unsettle people between Christmas and New Year when they would normally start booking their summer holidays.”
The EU hopes the move will make travel easier in 2022.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories