Questions and answers on COVID-19: Travelling

1. What travel restrictions are in place in the European Union?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, in an effort to slow down the spread, many countries have applied measures for incoming travellers from inside and outside the EU. These have varied from requiring proof of a negative diagnostic test for SARS-CoV-2 (either PCR or rapid antigen test), to not allowing the entry of non-citizens or non-residents for non-essential travel. These measures are subject to a continuous evaluation by national authorities of the epidemiological situation of the country of origin of the travellers, and change frequently.

If you intend to travel in the EU, check the European Commission Re-open EU web platform containing real-time information on borders, available means of transport and tourism services in the Member States.

2. What is the EU Digital Covid Certificate? 

The EU Digital COVID Certificate (DCC) is a digital proof that a person has either been fully vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine, has recovered from COVID-19 or has proof of a negative test for SARS-CoV-2. Each of these categories of the DCC has a different duration of validity. 

National authorities are responsible for issuing this certificate, which should be free of charge, include a QR code and be valid in all EU countries. 

Several non-EU countries have also adopted the EU DCC. 

3. What precautions should I take if I need to travel?

Standard prevention measures to control the spread of COVID-19 are also recommended during travel.

These include:

  • not travelling if exhibiting COVID-19 like symptoms
  • ensuring physical distancing (ideally keeping a distance of two metres from others), strict hand hygiene (washing hands with soap and water regularly and/or using alcohol-based hand sanitisers)
  • respiratory etiquette (coughing and sneezing into a tissue or elbow)
  •  the use of face masks in any conveyance or in situations where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Travellers who develop any symptoms compatible with COVID-19 during or after travel should self-isolate and seek medical advice from their healthcare provider or the national public health authorities, mentioning their travel history.

4. What is the risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2 when travelling?

The risk of being infected with SARS-CoV-2 while travelling cannot be excluded, so standard prevention measures should be followed.

ECDC, in collaboration with other relevant EU agencies, has developed joint guidance for the aviation, cruise and railway sectors for use during the pandemic, including advice on non-pharmaceutical interventions while travelling, the cleaning and disinfection of premises, and managing a COVID-19 case on board.

5. Why are people being checked for COVID-19 at points of arrival?

National authorities may carry out entry checks at points of entry with the purpose of reducing the number of imported COVID-19 cases in their territories. This is mostly done currently by using Rapid antigen tests (RADT) or PCR tests to detect SARS-CoV-2. 

In general, the successful control of the spread of COVID-19 through entry travel measures is only possible for certain geographical settings (e.g. islands), where measures for incoming travellers can be implemented comprehensively and with a controlled approach. 

Many countries in the EU/EEA implemented entry screening (mainly testing and quarantine) for arriving passengers depending on their place of origin, and some continue to carry out systematic entry checks. The screening may be implemented in a different way at airports, ports or ground crossings. 

6. What travel measures are used by countries? 

Travel-related measures used by some countries for arriving travellers around the world for the detection of COVID-19 may include:

  • filling in a health declaration form, in which travellers are asked about possible symptoms and exposure to COVID-19;
  • requiring a negative RT-PCR or Rapid Antigen Detection Test (RADT) test before arriving at the destination or upon arrival;
  • requiring a quarantine period for incoming travellers (with/without testing for release);
  • temperature screening upon arrival (with a thermometer or other device). 
  • the EU Digital COVID Certificate for incoming travellers. 
  • a passenger locator form (PLF), particularly in digitalised format. PLFs allow local public health authorities to track involved travellers if contact tracing is necessary.