The European Commission has proposed a change in travel restrictions into the EU, saying the bloc should focus on travelers' vaccination status, rather than geographic zones.
When the pandemic began, a majority of EU states had agreed on a far-reaching entry ban for non-essential travel. While the European Commission updated a so-called "green list" of countries outside the bloc where travelers were permitted entry, individual EU nations could also add their own restrictions.
European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders said in a press release the goal of the Commission's recommendation was to increase consistency across the 27-member bloc.
Reynders said there is "an obvious risk that differing approaches between countries could endanger confidence in the COVID certificate system, and harm free movement in the Union."
The Commission's recommendations come as Europe reached on Thursday the grim milestone of 1.5 million coronavirus deaths. Germany saw its death toll pass 100,000 on Thursday. Europe is now the only region in the world where COVID-19 continues to rise.
No test requirement for vaccinated travelers
The Commission recommended that those who hold the EU's digital vaccination certificate should not be subject to additional travel restrictions, such as tests or quarantine.
For travelers who are immunized with a WHO-recognized vaccine that is not recognized by the European Medicines Agency, a negative PCR test would still be required for entry.
The vaccine certificates must not be older than 9 months. This has opened the door for EU members to debate whether boosters should be required for vaccine certificates.
The Commission's changes to the EU COVID-19 travel rules could come into effect in January.
Booster campaigns take off in France
EU governments are rolling out their booster campaigns and setting new standards for vaccination status, in hopes of mitigating the ongoing crisis.
French Health Minister Olivier Veran said COVID-19 booster shots would be accessible to all adults starting this weekend. They had only been available to people over 65 or with health problems up until now.
Starting January 15, France will require people over 18 to show proof of a booster dose to maintain a valid COVID-19 pass, which is required to enter restaurants, bars, gyms and other public venues.
The government hopes the stringent measures could see allow France to ride out the fifth wave without another lockdown.
Czech Republic reintroduces restrictions
The Czech Republic is the latest European country to introduce coronavirus restrictions, as it declared a 30-day state of emergency. It is an effort to tackle a record surge of infections in a country where just over 58% of the population has been fully vaccinated.
It follows neighboring Austria's recent announcement of a lockdown and vaccine mandate. Among the new measures, all Christmas markets across the country are banned while it's also banned to drink alcohol in public places, Health Minister Adam Vojtech said.
Bars, restaurants, night clubs, discotheques and casinos will have to close at 10 p.m, while the number of people at culture and sports events will be limited to 1,000 who are vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19.
jcg/sms (dpa, Reuters)