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EU Travel Is Opening Up. What Should You Keep in Mind?

Updated: Oct 8, 2021

On 31 May 2021, the European Union Commission announced a proposal for the update of the Council Recommendation on the coordination of free movement restrictions in the EU amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The proposal advises EU Member States to gradually ease existing travel restrictions.

We are proposing that Member States coordinate this gradual lifting of free movement restrictions, taking into account our new common tool: the EU Digital Covid Certificate. We now expect the Member States to make the best use of this instrument and the recommendation to allow everyone to move freely and safely again,” the EU Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders said.

Tests still essential

While vaccination campaigns in the EU are progressing, regular testing remains an important mechanism for controlling and measuring the state of the pandemic. Negative Covid-19 test results will also be one of the three main prerequisites for issuing the EU Digital Covid Certificate.

Travellers holding a certificate that proves they have tested negative for Covid-19 should be exempt from the requirement of quarantine, according to the proposal. The Commission also suggests a standard validity period for tests: 72 hours for PCR tests and, where accepted by a Member State, 48 hours for rapid antigen tests.

Rapid antigen rests vs. PCR tests

Currently, a variety of tests give travellers the freedom to choose their preferred option. While PCR tests are known to be the most reliable form of testing, rapid antigen tests provide results much faster and at a much lower cost. Some rapid tests can be done at home as self-tests, while others are administered specifically by medical professionals.

In Germany, customers of a popular supermarket chain were able to purchase one pack of five DIY tests for EUR 25 back in March. In comparison, the cheapest PCR test in Berlin costs EUR 49.

In France, antigen tests are available at the pharmacy for EUR 38 and produce results on the spot. French residents who are registered in the national healthcare system can get a full refund using their French health insurance card.

PCR tests in Italy are also typically more expensive than rapid antigen swabs. In the Lazio region around Rome, for instance, antigen tests cost around EUR 20, while a PCR test is around EUR 60, according to The Local.



The new Delta variant (India strain) of the Covid-19 virus threatens Europe with a new wave by the end of this summer.


Self-testing vs. testing by medical representatives

Travellers can choose the type of rapid test to do depending on the purpose of their testing.

Self-tests do not have the highest reliability but a negative result shows that the person taking the test is unlikely to be contagious at that moment. These tests are most useful for people who would like to make an informed decision before visiting relatives and friends, for example.

However, the results of self-tests are usually not accepted as official medical certificates. People who are planning to travel and need an official laboratory result should instead opt for a PCR or rapid antigen test administered by a medical representative.

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