Sat, January 22, 2022


E.U. recommends new restrictions for unvaccinated residents traveling within Europe

BRUSSELS -The European Commission recommended Thursday that member countries apply more travel restrictions to people who are unvaccinated in the 27-nation blocs latest attempt to curb the recent surge of cases across the continent.

The commission's health authorizing agency also approved vaccines for children as young as 5 - a milestone that could help Europe improve vaccination rates at a time when cases and deaths from the virus are up. The commission travel recommendations did not apply to unvaccinated children under the age of 6.

The ability to easily travel between countries in the European Union is a core value of the bloc, and the commission's latest recommendations attempt to strike the balance between upholding that freedom and implementing restrictions that could slow the spread of the virus.

People who have a European Union covid certificate - which means they are fully vaccinated, have proof that they recovered from the virus or recently tested negative - should not have any travel restrictions, according to the recommendations. Everyone else should quarantine or be tested when they travel to a country in the bloc.

The commission also said travelers coming into the bloc should not be considered vaccinated if they received their doses more than nine months ago and have not yet received a booster.

Countries do not have to adopt the commission's recommendations.

"The travel rules need to take into account this volatile situation," Didier Reynders, European commissioner of justice, said at a news conference announcing the recommendations.

Across Europe, countries are applying lockdowns and restrictions to contain the latest wave of the pandemic - and hopefully bring case numbers down ahead of the Christmas holidays. Reported deaths in Europe reached nearly 4,200 a day last week - twice the number since the end of September, according to the World Health Organization, which counts 53 countries as part of Europe.

The Netherlands ordered restaurants and bars to close at 8 p.m., while Slovakia implemented a two-week lockdown on Wednesday, in which people can only leave home for work, grocery shopping or to get vaccinated. Austria also is under a lockdown that could last for 20 days.

"We need to convince more people to get vaccinated," Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said in a taped message to the public that also encouraged people to get a booster shot six months after their initial vaccination. "A quarter of E.U. adults are still not fully vaccinated. If you are unvaccinated you are more at risk of having severe covid symptoms. Vaccinations protect you and the others."

While the European Commission issued its recommendations Thursday, the French government announced that booster shots would be available for all adults beginning Saturday. Boosters are already available to residents 65 and older.

France's health minister said that vaccination certificates of people who do not get the booster will start expiring in mid-January. Earlier this month, President Emmanuel Macron introduced a similar rule for those over 65, with a deadline in mid-December.

Proof of vaccination can help people enter restaurants, bars and other entertainment venues in France.

At a news conference on Thursday, Health Minister Olivier Véran appealed to the French to respect distancing measures and mask mandates.

"We have to pull ourselves together," he said. "These small daily constraints are the keys to our freedom."

Published : November 25, 2021

By : The Washington Post