The National - News
As the latest wave breaks over Europe, how will its Covid-19 passport change the way people travel?
The latest coronavirus wave has prompted the EU to update its Covid-19 travel passport system.
The bloc’s Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said new travel rules would take effect this week and the EU’s Digital Covid-19 Certificate will co-ordinate travellers’ movements inside Europe.
The focus of the system will shift to a person’s Covid-19 status rather than the country they travelled from.
EU quarantine policies will concern people without a valid digital certificate.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has described the latest wave of infection as a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” but the EU will not stop non-vaccinated citizens from travelling.
EU officials said there would be no discrimination between vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Instead, a negative test result added to the digital certificate will be enough to permit unrestricted travel.
Germany, which is battling a sharp increase in infections, has said that people from Belgium, Ireland, Greece and the Netherlands who are not vaccinated or recovered from the virus will have to isolate themselves on arrival.
Austria, where a 20-day lockdown began this week, will impose fines of up to €3,600 ($4,038) on those who refuse to be vaccinated once shots become mandatory in the new year. Leisure travel into Austria is banned until December 13.
The EU will toughen quarantine rules for essential workers, seeking to end exemptions by states.
The EU-wide consensus takes a more liberal approach to travel that may be at odds with that of its leading members, which prioritise vaccination.
In anticipation of the next EU leaders’ summit on December 16 to 17, officials are looking at how to beat vaccine hesitancy.
The promotion of inoculation as a means of ending the hassle of regular testing for travellers is one option.
With science suggesting that vaccine protection wanes after six months, updates to the digital certificate will take booster shots into account.
The EC’s proposals on non-essential travel are not binding for member states.
Currently, countries can require people to enter quarantine or take a test if they come from an area where the infection rate is deemed high, and can impose tighter restrictions on people travelling to or from areas coded dark red on the EU’s common map.
The bloc will also lay out recommendations for travel from outside. Rules on going to public events are set by national governments.