With the Covid-19 vaccine arriving in countries all over the world and many frontline workers already having received the first dose, it is definitely a time to look forward to the travel aspect to make a uniform approach in allowing vaccinated people to travel without testing. Greece is making a proposal for just such an approach for all of the EU to ease travel restrictions and quarantines between countries.
Greece Proposing an EU Vaccination Certificate Program
Current EU Travel Restrictions in Countries
Right now, travel within the EU bloc is not completely seamless as travelers are used to in times past. While travel can still be done (for the most part), there are rules that countries have in effect that make quick and easy travel more difficult. For example, for anyone arriving in Greece (even from other EU countries), it is required that they have a negative PCR test within 72 hours of arriving in Greece. In addition, until January 21, all travelers are supposed to self-isolate for 7 days on arrival with UK travelers having mandatory quarantine for 7 days with a test at the end of it.
It Needs to Be More Than the PLF
Some countries are using things like Greece’s PLF (Passenger Locator Form) which is required to fill out before arrival to indicate where you have come from and where you will be going – a way to contact you should there be those infected onboard. But, there is not an EU form of this so they are not all handled the same way.
On a recent flight to Germany, the first we (and most on the plane) learned about this certificate was when the flight attendants said that they should be ready on the phones when we land. Even after filling it out, the German police didn’t even ask for it upon entering. This is very different from Greece which needs to see and scan each passenger’s PLF before allowing them to enter the country.
The Greek Proposal
Now that many people will begin getting the vaccine, and possibly to incentivize those that are not wanting to get it (which is quite a large percentage of people in Greece), the Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis is going to make a proposal to the EU on January 21 to create a uniform vaccination certificate program. This would allow people that have received the vaccine to move more freely throughout the EU bloc again without having to face testing or quarantine requirements. Greece already has such a standardized form and seeks to have the EU Commission adopt a uniform certificate
A move like this is a first move to creating a more internationally recognized program for this kind of travel certification. With more countries requiring testing before entry, it will certainly be welcome by any that receive the vaccine. However, many countries are still in the priority phase of the vaccination for frontline workers and at-risk population groups (and rightfully so). Given the groups that are receiving this at first, it is a great time to start rolling out a travel certificate program to see how it works as travel picks up again.
But Not Required for Travel
Do note that Greece has also said that they do not plan to require testing for travel (which is something that had once been rumored could be enacted). France, for one, is set against requiring the vaccine for travel within the EU and there are likely other countries that will be against this as well. So, should the EU take up and pass this proposal, it would likely be just to streamline the travel for those that have received the vaccine and not to require it.
Should There Be a Program for People Who Can Prove They Had the Virus?
It would also be nice to see something in place for people that have already had the virus. With studies showing that the antibodies for people that have had the virus lasting at least 6 months and possibly up to years, there will be many people that could travel more freely again if there was such a program in place.
For instance, I had the coronavirus a few months ago (my family did – we did not realize that is what it was at the time due to some other symptoms). Recently, I had to get tested (again – it was my 3rd negative test in 5 days!) for the presence of covid-19 as well as get an antibodies test. My results came back negative for the virus but positive (with a relatively high antibodies count) for antibodies. Now, I no longer need to get tested inside Greece since having these two tests (taken the same day) show that I have had it and am ok.
My guess is that this would be something most countries would not be in a rush to certify since testing can vary in some places and there are still some false results. For a vaccine program, this is much easier to certify since the recipient would have to receive the vaccine to receive the certificate. But, it would be nice anyway!