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Travel during the coronavirus pandemic

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Webpages in this section are no longer being updated. The content may be out-of-date and should be consulted for past reference only.

Safe travel between European countries

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequent travel restrictions put in place by Member States to protect public health, the EU introduced measures to facilitate safe travel while limiting the propagation of the virus and protecting the health and well-being of all Europeans:

Facilitating travel within the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, EU Member States took various measures to restrict travel in order to limit the spread of coronavirus. To ensure coordination and clear communication across the EU, the Commission worked on fostering cooperation and exchange of information regarding such restrictions.

On 13 October 2020, on the basis of a Commission proposal, the Council adopted a Recommendation on a coordinated approach to the restriction of free movement in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The recommendation aimed to avoid fragmentation and disruption, and to increase transparency and predictability for citizens and businesses. More specifically, it established a common approach on the following key points:

  • The application of common criteria and thresholds when deciding whether to introduce travel restrictions

  • Mapping of the risk areas of COVID-19 transmission based on common conditions and an agreed colour code, published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

  • A common framework for measures applied to travellers from high-risk areas

  • Coordination among Member States and clear and timely information to the public about any restrictions

The Council recommendation was updated multiple times in response to the developments of the pandemic. This included establishing standard validity periods for tests of COVID-19 infection.

Another important tool to facilitate safe travel within the EU, was the EU Digital COVID Certificate Regulation, which entered into force on 1 July 2021. The Certificate served as proof that a person was vaccinated against COVID-19, had recently received a negative test result or recovered from COVID-19. When travelling, every Certificate holder would have the same rights as citizens of the visited Member State who were vaccinated, tested or recovered from COVID-19. As such, the regulation aimed at facilitating the gradual lifting of travel restrictions put in place by the Member States.

Used by most Member States from its launch in 2021 until mid-2022, the EU Digital COVID Certificate was a major success in Europe’s efforts to address and mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on societies and economies. With more than 2.3 billion certificates issued, it was crucial to support free movement and Europe’s hard-hit tourism industry. As the epidemiological situation improved, requirements to hold EU Digital COVID Certificates for intra-EU travel decreased. On 29 June 2022, to ensure continued travel in the case of a significant worsening of the epidemiological situation, the EU Digital COVID Certificate Regulation was extended until 30 June 2023. By August 2022, all Member States had lifted all intra-EU travel restrictions.

On 5 May 2023, the World Health Organization declared the end of the COVID-19 pandemic as a public health emergency of international concern. Reflecting this situation, the Commission did not propose a further extension of the EU Digital COVID Certificate Regulation beyond 30 June 2023. Since 1 July 2023, the regulation and accompanying Council recommendation are no longer in force.

The positive impact of the EU Digital COVID Certificate system extended beyond the EU, as it became a global standard firmly based on the EU’s values of openness, security and data protection. Overall, 78 countries across five continents benefited from the system. This success contributed to the resumption of safe international travel and global recovery. The World Health Organization has decided to take up the EU system of digital COVID-19 certification to establish a global system that will help protect citizens across the world from on-going and future health threats, including pandemics.

For more information about the possible future use of the underlying technology, see EU Digital COVID Certificate.

Travel from non-EU countries to the EU

Early on during the pandemic, on 16 March 2020, the Commission adopted a Communication recommending a temporary restriction of non-essential travel from third countries into the EU. On 17 March 2020, Member States agreed to implement the temporary restriction, with the four Schengen Associated States also implementing it.

On 30 June 2020, following a proposal from the Commission on the 11 June, the Council adopted a recommendation on the gradual lifting of the temporary restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU. The Council recommendation was updated multiple times in response to the developments of the pandemic.

During the period where restrictions for travel to the EU were in force, some exemptions were put in place to ensure free movement of citizens, goods and services – with full respect of health and safety measures. These can be consulted here:

Exemptions to coronavirus travel restrictions

Following the adoption of Council Recommendation (EU) 2022/2548 of 13 December 2022, Member States should impose no restrictions on travel on the grounds of public health due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, EU countries have put in place some safeguards in case of a deteriorating epidemiological situation or appearance of a new variant of concern.

Consular assistance for EU citizens abroad

After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Commission and the European External Action Service helped to bring home stranded EU citizens from all over the world.

Information about EU citizens’ rights to diplomatic and consular protection outside the EU


16 MARCH 2020
COVID-19: Temporary Restriction on Non-Essential Travel to the EU
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17 MARCH 2021
Communication: A common path to safe and sustained re-opening
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15 JUNE 2021
Regulation (EU) 2021/953 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 June 2021
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22 DECEMBER 2022
Council Recommendation (EU) 2022/2548 of 13 December 2022 on a coordinated approach to travel to the Union during the COVID-19 pandemic and replacing Council Recommendation (EU) 2020/912
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Disclaimer. The page was last updated in September 2023