Travel During the Coronavirus Pandemic

travel in europe covid

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on travel, leading EU Member States to implement various measures to restrict movement in order to contain the spread of the virus. Recognizing the need for coordination and clear communication across the EU, the European Commission has worked towards fostering cooperation and exchange of information regarding these restrictions.

Coordinated Approach to Travel Restrictions

To avoid fragmentation and disruption, and to provide transparency and predictability for citizens and businesses, the Council adopted a Recommendation on a coordinated approach to the restriction of free movement in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on 13 October 2020. This recommendation established a common approach on key points including:

  • Common criteria and thresholds for deciding whether to introduce travel restrictions.
  • Mapping of COVID-19 risk areas based on agreed conditions and a color-coded system.
  • A common framework for measures applied to travelers from high-risk areas.
  • Coordination among Member States and clear and timely information to the public about any restrictions.

The Council recommendation has been updated multiple times to reflect the evolving situation of the pandemic, including the establishment of standard validity periods for COVID-19 tests.

The EU Digital COVID Certificate

Another important tool introduced to facilitate safe travel within the EU is the EU Digital COVID Certificate Regulation, which came into effect on 1 July 2021. This certificate serves as proof that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19, recently tested negative, or has recovered from the virus. The certificate grants the holder the same rights as citizens of the visited Member State who meet the aforementioned criteria. Its purpose is to gradually lift travel restrictions imposed by Member States.

Since its launch, the EU Digital COVID Certificate has been widely used by most Member States. It has proven to be a major success, with over 2.3 billion certificates issued. This has played a crucial role in supporting free movement and revitalizing Europe’s tourism industry, which was severely affected by the pandemic. As the epidemiological situation improved, the requirements for holding EU Digital COVID Certificates for intra-EU travel decreased. By August 2022, all Member States had lifted restrictions on intra-EU travel.

To ensure continued travel in the event of a significant worsening of the epidemiological situation, the EU Digital COVID Certificate Regulation was extended until 30 June 2023 on 29 June 2022. However, reflecting the improving global situation, the World Health Organization declared the end of the COVID-19 pandemic as a public health emergency of international concern on 5 May 2023. Consequently, the Commission did not propose a further extension of the EU Digital COVID Certificate Regulation beyond 30 June 2023. As of 1 July 2023, the regulation and accompanying Council recommendation are no longer in force.

Global Impact and Future Prospects

The success of the EU Digital COVID Certificate system extends beyond the borders of the EU. It has become a global standard rooted in the EU’s values of openness, security, and data protection. A total of 78 countries across five continents have benefited from this system. Its success has contributed to the resumption of safe international travel and the global recovery from the pandemic. In recognition of its effectiveness, the World Health Organization has decided to adopt the EU system of digital COVID-19 certification to establish a global system that will help protect citizens worldwide from ongoing and future health threats, including pandemics.

For more information about the potential future uses of the underlying technology, please refer to the EU Digital COVID Certificate.


In conclusion, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced governments worldwide to implement travel restrictions to curb the spread of the virus. In the European Union, the European Commission took measures to ensure coordination and clear communication across Member States by adopting a recommendation that established a common approach to travel restrictions, criteria for risk assessment, and a framework for measures applied to travelers from high-risk areas. Furthermore, the introduction of the EU Digital COVID Certificate has played a crucial role in facilitating safe travel within the EU by providing proof of vaccination, negative testing, or recovery from the virus. This certificate has been widely used and has contributed to the gradual lifting of travel restrictions.

The success of the EU Digital COVID Certificate goes beyond Europe, as it has become a global standard embraced by 78 countries across five continents. Its effectiveness in facilitating safe international travel has led the World Health Organization to adopt this system and establish a global certification framework. This will help protect citizens worldwide from future health threats, ensuring a safer and more secure travel experience for all.

Moving forward, the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and the implementation of digital health certificates will undoubtedly shape the future of travel. The underlying technology behind these certificates holds great potential for various applications beyond the pandemic, such as streamlining travel processes, enhancing security measures, and ensuring the privacy and protection of personal data. By harnessing these advancements, we can create a more resilient and efficient travel ecosystem that prioritizes the well-being and safety of travelers around the world.

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