EU seeks quarantine exemption for vaccinated travelers

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The European Commission has proposed member-states to exempt vaccinated travelers from quarantine for the coronavirus disease 2019 when traveling between European Union (EU) nations as it urges them to slowly lift pandemic restrictions.

The EU’s executive branch announced the suggestion on Monday as the pandemic in the 27-nation bloc improves amid its progressing vaccine rollout.

The exemption is dependent upon the use of an EU Digital Covid Certificate, which the European Parliament and the Council agreed to on May 20.

The free certificate, which comes in both paper and digital form, contains a digitally signed QR code and states whether a person has been vaccinated, tested or recovered from the virus. Officials said the certificate is on track to be ready by the end of June.

“We now expect member states to make best use of this instrument and the recommendation to allow everyone to move freely and safely again,” Didier Reynders, the EU Justice commissioner for Justice, said in a statement.

The exemption would also be in place for those who have received a single dose of the two-dose regimen. Those who have recovered from the virus should also be exempt for 180 days after receiving a positive test.

The commission also suggested for tests to be valid for 72 hours and 48 hours for rapid antigen tests. Minors traveling with vaccinated parents should also be exempt from quarantine while those under six years old should be exempt from travel-related testing, it said.

It also suggested for member states to adopt a so-called emergency break to re-introduce travel measures for vaccinated and recovered people from countries where the situation deteriorates or due to a high number of Covid-19 variants.

Under the EU’s color code, travelers from Green regions, meaning where there are fewer than 25 cases per 100,000 people over a two-week period, require no restrictions while those from Orange where there are fewer than 50 could be required to take pre-departure tests.

Travelers from Red areas where there are between 50 and 150 cases in the 14-day period per 100,000 people could be required to undergo quarantines upon arrival while those from Dark Red regions, the highest on the color scale with more than 150 cases, are “strongly discouraged” against non-essential travel.

“We want to make sure that we can move toward the reopening of our societies in the weeks ahead safely and in a coordinated way,” said Stella Kyriakides, the EU commissioner for Health and Food Safety. “As vaccination is progressing with increasing speed, we can be confident that safe free movement without restrictions can gradually resume again.”

According to Oxford University, nearly 38 percent of its 244 million people have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, a drastic increase from just under 25 percent at the start of the month.

On Monday, the commission also adopted the EU regulator’s decision to approve the Pfizer vaccine for those between the ages of 12 and 15.

“Member-states can now choose to expand their vaccination rollout to young people, Kyriakides said. To put an end to the crisis, every dose counts.”

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