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How the rules of the EU Covid certificate for travel will change from February

As infection rates surge in parts of Europe, the EU will limit the validity of its flagship Covid-19 certificate to nine months. The pass is designed to allow for restriction free travel within the bloc but certain countries are stepping up restrictions.

A customer shows her Green Pass on a mobile phone in a central Rome bar
How the EU could change its Covid certificate for travel Photo: Andreas SOLARO / AFP

Since it was rolled out in July the EU’s Covid certificate has allowed for those vaccinated, recovered or who tested negative for Covid, to travel freely within the bloc without the need for subsequent tests or quarantine.

However with cases now surging across the EU and the consensus between member states fractured as certain countries impose new travel restrictions, the European Commission has adopted new rules on the validity of the Covid-19 travel pass.

The Commission on Tuesday adopted rules that will make the certificate valid for just nine months after the holder became fully vaccinated, Reuters reported.

That means after two shots of a two dose vaccine such as Pfizer or Moderna or after one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vacccine.

After a booster shot, the validity of the COVID-19 pass will be extended further without a set limit.

The new rule could still be blocked by a qualified majority of EU governments or a simple majority of European Parliament members, but Reuters reports that officials have said there is sufficient support for it.

If passed, the new rules will be binding on the 27 EU states from Feb 1st.

 
Once the rule is in place in February, EU member states will be obliged to let fully vaccinated travellers with a valid pass enter the country. However individual countries could still impose further requirements, such as negative tests or quarantines, as long as they are proportionate.

Seven EU states are currently requiring fully vaccinated travellers from other EU countries to also show a negative test upon arrival, measures some see as damaging the credibility of the EU pass, Reuters reports.

Those countries are Italy, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Latvia, Cyprus and Austria.

Under the harmonised system the Covid certificates, which can be on paper or stored electronically on smartphones –  carry proof via a QR code that the holder has either:
  • been vaccinated against Covid-19
  • recently recovered from the virus (meaning the holder has antibodies in their system)
  • recently tested negative for Covid 
But a time limit for their use was never set and with studies revealing that immunity via vaccination wears off after six or seven months there has been increased pressure to add a duration length to the certificates as well as include mention of booster shots.
 
Given that borders are national competence not an EU one member states have always been allowed to introduce their own Covid entry rules and restrictions.
 
Separate to the harmonised EU travel agreement many member states such as France and Italy have made vaccine passes compulsory for entry into leisure venues such as bars and restaurants. 

Member comments

  1. Please change the picture – the lady holding out the phone has her crappy medical mask completely off her nose – not a good advert for adherence to the rules!

      1. It’s a matter of degree – without any masks, things would be much worse – but see my answer above regarding still allowing these masks vs only FFP2 masks

        1. Richard – out if interest, what triggers you pointing out to change the picture or to recommend to wear a FFP2 mask? Does it make you feel uncomfortable? Do you expect others to compensate for your fears? You might have an underlying condition you want to bring up with a healthcare professional. Take care and stay safe!

          1. Aah! I see that you have seen through my disguise. I am indeed a deranged ex-pat out to foment contestation, and eventually, with my long haired white cat at my side, seek to rule the world! Muhahaha
            Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours!

  2. The masks are not 100% in preventing infection, of course, but they do significantly reduce transmission. Really unhelpful to suggest otherwise.

    1. My main point was that she is wearing the mask incorrectly, so it is not effective. As to “crappy”, the FFP2 mask should have been made the only acceptable mask as soon as supplies were sufficient, yet many people wear these much inferior masks because they are still allowed to, even though FFP2 masks are vastly more effective.

  3. You are right Johanna, Masks don’t work. It’s has been proven, yet those in power refuse to look at the real science.

    1. Glenn, all those surgeons wearing masks during operations must be fashion statements, can’t possibly be because they work.

      1. The surgical masks are to prevent spittle from entering an open wound. That’s all. Now when doctors are working with dangerous infectious diseases they wear much more extensive protective gear.

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TRAVEL NEWS

UPDATE: When will Germany’s €49 ticket start?

Germany announced a €49 monthly ticket for local and regional public transport earlier this month, but the hoped-for launch date of January 2023 looks increasingly unlikely.

UPDATE: When will Germany's €49 ticket start?

Following the popularity of the €9 train ticket over the summer, the German federal and state governments finally agreed on a successor offer at the beginning of November.

The travel card – dubbed the “Deutschlandticket” – will cost €49 and enable people to travel on regional trains, trams and buses up and down the country.

There had been hopes that the discount travel offer would start up in January 2023, but that now seems very unlikely.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s €49 ticket

Martin Burkert, Head of the German Rail and Transport Union (EVG) now expects the €49 ticket to be introduced in the spring.

“From our point of view, it seems realistic to introduce the Deutschlandticket on April 1st, because some implementation issues are still unresolved”, Burkert told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland on Monday. The Association of German Transport Companies, on the other hand, said on Wednesday that they believe the beginning of May will be a more realistic start date.

The federal and state transport ministers have set their sights on an April deadline, but this depends on whether funding and technical issues can be sorted out by then. In short, the only thing that seems clear regarding the start date is that it will be launched at some point in 2023. 

Why the delay?

Financing for the ticket continues to cause disagreements between the federal and state governments and, from the point of view of the transport companies, financing issues are also still open.

The federal government has agreed to stump up €1.5 billion for the new ticket, which the states will match out of their own budgets. That brings the total funding for the offer up to €3 billion. 

But according to Bremen’s transport minister Maike Schaefer, the actual cost of the ticket is likely to be closer to €4.7 billion – especially during the initial implementation phase – leaving a €1.7 billion hole in finances.

Transport companies are concerned that it will fall to them to take the financial hit if the government doesn’t provide enough funding. They say this will be impossible for them to shoulder. 

Burkert from EVG is calling on the federal government to provide more than the €1.5 billion originally earmarked for the ticket if necessary.

“Six months after the launch of the Deutschlandticket at the latest, the federal government must evaluate the costs incurred to date with the states and, if necessary, provide additional funding,” he said. 

READ ALSO: OPINION: Why Germany’s €49 travel ticket is far better than the previous €9 ticket

Meanwhile, Deutsche Bahn has warned that the network is not prepared to cope with extra demand. 

Berthold Huber, the member of the Deutsche Bahn Board of Management responsible for infrastructure, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that a big part of the problem is the network is “structurally outdated” and its “susceptibility to faults is increasing.” 

Accordingly, Huber said that there is currently “no room for additional trains in regional traffic around the major hub stations” and, while adding more seats on trains could be a short terms solution, “here, too, you run up against limits,” Huber said.

So, what now? 

Well, it seems that the federal states are happy to pay half of whatever the ticket actually costs – but so far, the federal government has been slow to make the same offer.

With the two crucial ministries – the Finance Ministry and the Transport Ministry – headed up by politicians from the liberal FDP, environment groups are accusing the party of blocking the ticket by proxy. 

According to Jürgen Resch, the director of German Environment Aid, Finance Minister Christian Lindner and Transport Minister Volker Wissing are deliberately withholding the necessary financial support for the states.

Wissing has also come under fire from the opposition CDU/CSU parties after failing to turn up to a transport committee meeting on Wednesday. 

The conservatives had narrowly failed in a motion to summon the minister to the meeting and demand a report on the progress of the €49 ticket.

“The members of the Bundestag have many unanswered questions and time is pressing,” said CDU transport politician Thomas Bareiß, adding that the ticket had falling victim to a “false start”. 

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