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EU countries agree to simplify travel rules with Covid certificates

EU countries have agreed to make it easier for anyone with an EU Covid-19 certificate to travel within the bloc without having to face any further restrictions such as tests or quarantine.

A customer shows her EU Covid-19 certificate
EU countries agree to simplify travel rules with Covid certificates Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

The EU council, made up of member states has agreed a new recommendation, that countries should base their travel rules on an individual case rather than the region they are travelling from.

That would mean those with an EU Covid certificate, which proves vaccination, recovery or a negative test would be allowed to travel freely within the EU or Schengen zone without the need for extra tests or quarantine, even if they were coming from a country with high Covid infection rates.

This refers only to travel, and not to the domestic health or vaccine passes that many EU countries now require to access venues such as bars.

The aim of the recommendation is to “take into account the advantage of the individual situation of people, especially vaccinated people, and limit for them as much as possible travel restrictions in Europe,” France’s European Affairs Secretary Clément Beaune said.

The recommendation is set to come into force on February 1st, but it is non-binding so individual EU countries would be free to impose whatever travel restrictions they wish if they feel the need.

The EU created its Covid-19 certificate scheme to try to ensure free movement throughout the bloc but as infections spiked again in the winter certain countries chose to reimpose extra restrictions on all travellers.

In December Italy tightened travel restrictions for arrivals from other countries within the European Union.

All travellers to Italy from other EU countries have been forced to take a coronavirus test before departure and unvaccinated arrivals must quarantine for five days. That rule is in place until at least February 1st when it may be replaced by the EU’s new recommendation.

Under the EU’s recommendations from February 1st travellers should be able to freely travel to another EU country if they have had their primary course of vaccination a maximum of 270 days ago (roughly nine months) or if they have received their booster shot.

Those who have recovered from Covid in the last 180 days, and passengers who have had a PCR test 72 hours before arriving or an antigen test 24 hours before should also be allowed to enter without any further test requirements or need to quarantine.

Those without an EU Covid certificates could face extra testing requirements, although the EU recommends essential workers, cross-border commuters and children under 12 should be completely exempt.

However the one exception is if a country is classed “dark red” on the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s colour-coded risk map. In this case country’s could impose extra travel rules even on the vaccinated.

Given the spike in Omicron cases most of the EU is currently coloured dark red. But the map will soon be modified to take into account a country’s vaccination rates when determining risk level.

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AMERICANS IN ITALY

US citizens in Italy now allowed to renew passports online

The US Department of State has announced a new scheme enabling Americans living in Italy to pay to renew their passports online.

US citizens in Italy now allowed to renew passports online

The US State Department’s ‘online payment program’ allows adult Americans in Italy to pay to renew their passport over the internet, according to a recent announcement published on the website of the US embassy to Italy.

The scheme means US citizens can now apply to renew their passport without having to make an in-person appointment at the US embassy or a general consulate in Italy, as was previously the case.

Applicants can pay the $130 renewal fee via the US government’s secure payment site and will then need to post their application documents to the embassy or a consulate (a tracked courier service is highly recommended).

Once the new passport is ready, they can opt to collect the travel document in person or receive it via courier, completing the entire process remotely.

The announcement states that the service, which opened on May 22nd, is open to US citizens over the age of 16 who are officially resident in Italy or the Republic of San Marino – with some restrictions.

To be eligible for the online payment service, applicants must have been at least 16 years old when their most recent passport was issued, and the passport should have been issued no more than 15 years ago and should have a 10-year validity period.

The applicant must have a valid Italian mailing address and be able to send their undamaged passport to the US embassy or one of the general consulates in Florence, Milan or Naples.

Parents can not use the service when applying for new passports for their minor children under the age of 16, but must continue to apply in person.

16 and 17-year-old applicants require parental consent and must make an appointment to apply in person, though they can still make the payment online.

The announcement highlights that the service is available only for the renewal of passport books, and not passport cards.

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