Saturday, May 28

The EU limits the validity of antigen tests for travel to 24 hours

The Twenty-seven return this Tuesday to update the travel recommendations within the European Union to adapt the situation to the new reality created by the rapid spread of the omicron variant. The color map published every week by the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC), which currently certifies the existence of more than 500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in practically all European regions, will no longer be the reference element when introducing restrictions, by promoting a more personal and individual approach, while the validity of travel antigen tests will be reduced from 48 to 24 hours.

These are some of the elements that the European Commission put on the table last November 25 in the revision of the rules, before the omicron variant made an appearance on the European continent and became the dominant one in the EU. The rapid spread of this variant, more contagious than the delta, led several delegations to request the postponement of the new travel recommendations until they see the evolution. Finally, the 27 European ambassadors gave their endorsement last Friday, so the recommendations document will be approved without debate this Tuesday by the European affairs ministers.

According to it, the ECDC color map, currently used to introduce or lift restrictions according to the epidemiological situation of a specific region, will become an “information tool”. That is, the Twenty-seven will continue to use it as information element to discourage travel to or from regions with a higher spread of the virus, but it will be the individual status of the traveler that will determine the possible measures or travel requirements.

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No certificate, test or quarantine

For example, people who do not have a vaccination or recovery certificate and who arrive from areas of high circulation of the virus may be required to PCR test or an antigen test before travel as well as a subsequent 10-day quarantine/self-isolation that can only be terminated early if the person undergoes, at the earliest on the fifth day after arrival, a negative screening test.

“To persons who are not in possession of a covid certificate digital eu they may be required to undergo an updated PCR or antigen test before arrival or no later than 24 hours after arrival”, indicates the recommendation consulted by EL PERIÓDICO, a newspaper that belongs to this same group, Prensa Ibérica, which quote some exceptions such as carriers, patients traveling for imperative medical reasons, seafarers, cross-border workers or children under 12 years of age.

In the case of people who have been vaccinated, who have overcome the disease or who have a negative test, they will be able to travel with their certificate without additional quarantine or isolation requirements. The only change introduced in this area will be the period of validity of the antigen test which will be limited to 24 hours vs. current 48 hours (although countries like Italy already impose a validity of 24 hours). In the case of PCR tests, the validity period will be, as before, a maximum of 72 hours.

Vaccination with expiration date

Meanwhile, the recovery certificate will continue to be valid for 180 days from the first confirmation of the disease, while the vaccination certificate will require the complete guideline and will have an expiration date of 9 months, a measure that Brussels proposed to force citizens to receive the booster dose and contain the spread of the virus. From that date, in order to continue using it, the third dose or booster injection must be available.

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In the event that a Member State decides to impose additional requirements on European travelers who want to enter its territory with a certificate -such as quarantine or testing- in the event of the appearance of a new variant that is a cause for concern or interest, “it must inform the the Commission and the other Member States”, if possible “48 hours before the introduction of these new restrictions”. This measure should also be applied if a country decides to impose new requirements due to the rapid deterioration of the epidemiological situation in a specific region or Member State. If an EU country decides to activate the emergency brake and require carriers to test for covid, an antigen test without quarantine requirements should be chosen to avoid disruption of the transport chain.

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