Antigen tests will be used at Palma airport from Monday for travellers who don't have proof of a negative PCR test. | Archive

The European Commission has given the go-ahead to rapid antigen tests being used for travellers.

On Wednesday, the commission issued a series of recommendations to member states, urging them to "mutually recognise" the validity of these tests and their results. "Mutual recognition is of vital importance in facilitating cross-border movement and the tracing and processing of cross-border contacts."

"Member states are strongly recommended to mutually recognise the results of rapid antigen tests, which meet the criteria for operational tests authorised in any EU member state." Compliance with this recommendation, it is stressed, "can contribute to the free movement of people and the proper functioning of the European internal market".

The commission adds that new insights are being offered into the characteristics of the virus and the possibilities of using different approaches for the diagnosis of Covid-19. For this reason, it is therefore willing to update its recommendations regarding antigen tests.

"Rapid and accurate tests are the key to addressing Covid-19. The commission has supported their research and development and will launch a joint procurement procedure for rapid tests". Some 100 million euros are to be made available.

Brussels has been keen to establish standardised procedures and "more efficient" management of cross-border threats and travel. In assessing the use of rapid antigen tests, the commission insists that it is "essential to facilitate the crossing of borders and the movement, tracing and processing of cross-border contacts". "Results obtained with tests that have been validated at national level by a member state and which meet the criteria of these recommendations should be recognised by other member states".

In Spain, there has been a call for the government to change its regulations and allow travellers from foreign countries to have rapid antigen tests rather than PCR tests. These regulations come into effect this coming Monday. Travellers must be able to provide proof of a negative PCR test within 72 hours of travel. If not, they could be liable to fines. At Palma airport and other airports, antigen tests are to be made available, but these are not instead of the PCR tests; they are in order to check any travellers who don't provide proof.

The European Commission's recommendations regarding antigen tests are not binding.