European Union warns that various virus measures endanger free travel

European Union warns that various virus measures endanger free travel

Brussels – The European Union warned member states on Thursday that they risk undermining the COVID-19 travel and access certificate system in the 27-nation bloc with new restrictions some are putting in place in an attempt to stymie a surge in cases.

At the same time, the European Union’s executive branch, the European Commission, has recommended dropping the list of COVID-safe countries with about 20 countries currently outside Europe from March, and allowing all travelers with WHO-approved snapshots to enter.

Keen to defend the free movement of goods and people critical to business, EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said there was a “clear risk that differing approaches between countries could threaten trust in the COVID certificate system, and harm freedom of movement in the Union.” .

The World Health Organization says coronavirus infections jumped 11% in Europe last week, the only region in the world where the coronavirus continues to rise. WHO Europe Director Dr Hans Kluge has warned that without urgent measures, the continent could see another 700,000 deaths by spring.

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Many countries have begun to tighten rules on people who have not been vaccinated in an effort to encourage them to get vaccines to better stop the spread of the virus. Austria is even planning to make vaccinations mandatory from next February.

With winter approaching and restrictions imposed by the Corona virus intensifying, tens of thousands of people have rallied around Europe in recent weeks to protest against tightening procedures and against requirements for obtaining COVID-19 certificates.

The EU COVID Card contains evidence that the holder has either been vaccinated, has recovered in the past from the disease, or has recently tested negative.

But some German states are now demanding proof of vaccination and daily negative tests. From next month, Italy will require proof of vaccination or have recovered to access a range of leisure activities during the holiday season. Tests are no longer enough.

“EU certificate holders should, in principle, not be subject to additional restrictions, wherever they come from the EU. Restrictions such as additional checks or quarantines, for example,” Justice Commissioner Reynders told reporters.

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The committee says scientific evidence shows that vaccine immunity begins to wane after about 6 months. But it is recommended that certificates should continue to be accepted as valid for 9 months after the first snapshot.

Some states want booster shots to be mandatory in order for the certificates to be valid. France, for example, wants to ask them for certificates for those over 65, while neighboring Belgium doesn’t think that’s necessary yet.

“The commission is not proposing any validity period for boosters at this time,” Reynders said.

Brussels also wants to end the EU’s list of safe countries for non-essential travel. Like other countries, the US has been on and off as the pandemic spread in waves. That is set to change from March 1, if the 27 member states agree.

“We are now moving away from this state-based approach to an individual approach. All vaccinated people can join the EU,” said EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson.

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Travelers with EU-approved vaccines will be able to simply enter, while those with other WHO-approved shots will have to submit a negative PCR test as well. However, the certificates brought by these travelers must be no more than 9 months old.

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Frank Jordan in Berlin and Colin Barry in Milan, Italy contributed to this report.

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Follow all of the AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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