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EU to ease travel rules for vaccinated residents

  • >>Monika Pronczuk, The New York Times
    Published: 2022-01-26 02:16:42 BdST

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Commuters travel on an underground subway train, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and after omicron has become the dominant coronavirus variant in Europe, in Barcelona, Spain January 12, 2022. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

The European Union recommended Tuesday that people traveling among its 27 member states who have been vaccinated in the past nine months or recovered from the coronavirus should not face additional restrictions like testing or quarantine — the latest indication that the bloc is accepting COVID-19 as a part of everyday life rather than a severely disruptive force.

The change came a day after the World Health Organisation said that the spread of the omicron variant could change the pandemic from overwhelming to manageable.

“Omicron offers plausible hope for stabilisation and normalisation,” said Dr Hans Kluge, the agency’s director for Europe, although he cautioned it was too early to drop the restrictions entirely, as large areas of the global population remain unvaccinated.

Under the new recommendation, EU residents with a COVID digital certificate recording their full course of vaccination, a certificate of recent recovery from the disease or a negative test result not older than 72 hours will be able to move freely across the bloc.

The rules, which come into force Feb 1, are aimed at coordinating travel restrictions across the bloc. Public health measures remain the remit of national governments, a dynamic that in the past has led to a patchwork of chaotic rules. Individual countries can still impose additional requirements on visitors, such as quarantines or negative test results.

But the bloc recommended additional restrictions for people who are not vaccinated or have not recovered from the virus, and who are coming from areas that the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control indicates as having a high circulation of the virus. Such people will be able to travel if they can show a negative test result but will have to quarantine and undergo additional testing.

Given a spike in infections because of omicron, which is now the dominant variant in Europe, almost the entire bloc is within that high-circulation zone.

In an attempt to encourage more Europeans to get booster shots, the bloc also said that proof of two-dose vaccinations will expire after nine months. After that period, people who want to renew their digital certificates must get an additional coronavirus vaccine dose. So far, slightly over 40 percent of the bloc’s residents have received an extra dose.

The bloc is also retaining a legal tool that will allow it to swiftly introduce more restrictive travel rules if a threatening new variant or other COVID emergency emerges.

© 2022 The New York Times Company