EU warns differing virus measures put free travel at risk

Nov 25, 2021, 6:47 AM | Updated: 8:44 am
From left, European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders, European Commission Vice-President in...

From left, European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders, European Commission Vice-President in charge Europe Fit for the Digital Age Margrethe Vestager, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Commission Vice-President in charge for Promoting our European Way of Life Margaritis Schinas speak prior to a meeting of the College of Commissioners at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. (Kenzo Tribouillard, Pool Photo via AP)

(Kenzo Tribouillard, Pool Photo via AP)

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union warned member countries Thursday that they risk undermining the 27-nation bloc’s COVID-19 travel and access certificate system with new restrictions that some are putting in place to try to thwart a surge in cases.

At the same time, the EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, recommended that a COVID safe-country list with about 20 countries outside Europe currently on it should be dropped from March and that all travelers with World Health Organization endorsed shots be allowed in.

Anxious to defend the free movement of goods and people so vital to business, EU Justice Commissioner Didier 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 World Health Organization says coronavirus infections jumped 11% in Europe in the last week, the only region in the world where COVID-19 continues to rise. The WHO’s Europe director, Dr. Hans Kluge, warned that without urgent measures, the continent could see another 700,000 deaths by the spring.

Many countries have begun tightening rules on people who are not vaccinated to try to encourage them to get shots to better halt the spread of the virus. Austria even plans to make vaccines obligatory from next February.

As winter closes in and coronavirus restrictions are ramped up, tens of thousands of people have rallied around Europe in recent weeks in protest against the tightening of measures and against the requirement for COVID-19 certificates.

The EU’s COVID pass contains proof that the holder has either been vaccinated, has in the past recovered from the disease, or has recently tested negative.

But some German states are now demanding proof of vaccination and daily negative tests. From next month, Italy will require proof of vaccination or having recovered to access a host of free-time activities over the holiday season. Tests will no longer be enough.

“Holders of (an) EU certificate should, in principle, not be subject to additional restrictions, wherever they come from in the European Union. Restrictions such as additional tests or quarantine, for instance,” Reynders, the justice commissioner, told reporters.

The commission says scientific evidence shows that vaccine immunity begins to diminish after about 6 months. But it’s recommending that certificates should continue to be accepted as valid for 9 months after the first shot.

Some countries want booster shots to be mandatory for the certificates to be valid. France, for example, wants to require them on certificates for people over 65, while neighboring Belgium does not think it’s necessary yet.

“The commission is not proposing any period of validity for boosters at the moment,” Reynders said.

Brussels also wants to end the EU’s safe-country list for non-essential travel. Like other countries, the United States has been on and off it as the pandemic spread in waves. That is set to change from March 1, if the 27 member countries agree.

“Now we are moving away from this country-based approach to an individual approach,” EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said. “All people that are vaccinated can come into the European Union.”

Travelers who have had EU-approved vaccines would simply be able to enter, while those with other WHO-endorsed shots would also have to submit a negative PCR test as well. But certificates that these travelers present must not be more than 9 months old.

___

Frank Jordans in Berlin, and Colleen Barry in Milan, Italy, contributed to this report.

___

Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

German police smash cocaine ring accused of smuggling tons

BERLIN (AP) — German investigators said 14 suspects were arrested Tuesday in an investigation of a gang accused of bringing nearly five metric tons (5.5 U.S. tons) of cocaine from South America to Germany. The investigation was triggered by the seizure in a shipping container in Santos, Brazil, in November 2018 of 690 kilograms (1,521 […]
6 hours ago
FILE - This undated photo provided by the Washington County (Ark.) Jail shows Joshua Duggar. A fede...
Associated Press

Josh Duggar trial to begin over child pornography charges

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Jury selection was set to begin Tuesday in former reality TV star Josh Duggar’s trial over federal child pornography charges. Duggar, who appeared in TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting,” was charged in April with two counts of downloading and possessing child pornography. A federal Homeland Security agent in May testified that […]
6 hours ago
Associated Press

Vet calls for urgent medical care for elephants in Pakistan

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — The head of a team of vets on Tuesday called for urgent medical care for a pair of elephants in Pakistan’s port city of Karachi. Dr. Frank Goeritz, whose team was dispatched by a global animal welfare group to examine four elephants in total, reported that one the elephants needs a […]
6 hours ago
A general view of a Christmas market in Old Town Square in Prague, Czech Republic, Friday, Nov. 2...
Associated Press

Czech politicians put aside difference to back booster plan

PRAGUE (AP) — The Czech Republic’s outgoing and incoming prime ministers put aside their differences on Tuesday to support an initiative to administer 1 million COVID-19 booster shots in a week. Outgoing Prime Minister Andrej Babis and Petr Fiala, the prime minister-designate, voiced their support for the plan announced by the “Doctors help the Czech […]
6 hours ago
Associated Press

Walmart said she shoplifted; jury awards her $2.1 million

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama woman who says she was falsely arrested for shoplifting at a Walmart and then threatened by the company after her case was dismissed has been awarded $2.1 million in damages. A Mobile County jury on Monday ruled in favor of Lesleigh Nurse of Semmes, news outlets reported. Nurse said […]
6 hours ago
Associated Press

Millennial Money: Sustain generosity beyond the holidays

2020 asked a lot from us. We faced new challenges and reckoned with old ones, and often the world’s problems collided with our own individual needs. Help — whether in donations or even just attention — might’ve been hard to give when you required some yourself. If your finances are in better shape this giving […]
6 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
ENVOQUE MD

Thyroid issues: Here are the warning signs and what to do

In a 100-person office in the United States, an estimated 12 co-workers, employees and loved ones, will likely develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime. That’s because, according to the American Thyroid Association, more than 12% of the U.S. population will experience thyroid issues.
(Facebook Photo/NHTSA)...
Sweet James

Upcoming holiday season is peak time for DUI arrests

The holiday season may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also the most dangerous time of the year to be driving. That’s why it’s important to remember to call Sweet James Accident Attorneys if you’re injured or arrested because of a DUI accident.
...
PNC Bank

How one organization supports early childhood literacy for the most vulnerable

Nearly two out of every three children in low-income communities don’t own a single children’s book, a fact that ultimately could have profound impacts even before entering kindergarten, according to Arizona nonprofit Southwest Human Development.
EU warns differing virus measures put free travel at risk