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EU countries move to end quarantine rules for travel within the bloc

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By Euronews
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An employee validates coronavirus test certificate to passengers on a platform of a train station in Milan.
An employee validates coronavirus test certificate to passengers on a platform of a train station in Milan.   -   Copyright  PIERO CRUCIATTI/AFP

Travel within the EU may be about to become easier after member states agreed to new non-binding travel rules on Tuesday, which will take into account the individual situation of people, rather than the health situation in the country of origin.

As part of the new measures, European Affairs ministers, who met in Brussels on Tuesday, agreed that additional restrictions to free movement, like quarantine and additional testing, should end for travellers in possession of a valid EU digital COVID certificate from February 1.

This would mean anyone who is fully vaccinated, if no more than 270 days have passed since the last dose, or who have had a booster shot, would qualify under the new rules.

A negative PCR test received at the latest 72 hours before travel or a negative rapid antigen test no more than 24 hours prior to departure would also be allowed, as well as having proof of recovery from COVID within 180 days.

Clément Beaune, the Secretary of State for European Affairs of France, said that the idea is to focus on people, rather than where they are coming from.

"It is so we are much more focused on the individual situation of people - vaccinated or unvaccinated - rather than on the epidemiological situation of this or that country or region of the EU, with it being important to have more restrictions for people who are unvaccinated," Beaune told reporters on Tuesday.

The change is in response to a "significant increase" in vaccine uptake, as well as the reduced severity of the Omicron variant, and could mark one of the first steps by the EU to move towards an epidemic approach to the pandemic.

In an interview with Euronews, Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst said the decision is a wise one.

"I think we're entering a new phase in the pandemic. We're not there quite yet because Omicron is really widespread," Van Ranst said.

"And just to the fact that many people get ill, that has an effect on society. So, that has to subside and then when the pressure on the hospitals, where many Delta patients are still residing in intensive care, if that pressure also subsides, then I think we're ready to get rid of all, but that some of the measures."

The virologist added, however, that the difference with vaccinated citizens is "becoming blatantly clear" and is something that will require further monitoring in countries with lower vaccination rates.