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EU Calls for Open Borders to UK for Essential Travel

Photo source: European Commission

Photo source: European Commission

Aiming for a coordinated approach to travel and transport measures in the EU, the European Commission on Tuesday called on member states to facilitate essential travel and transit of passengers from the United Kingdom.

The recommendation follows a number of countries closing their borders to flights from the UK due to the rapid increase of coronavirus (Covid-19) cases in parts of England, of which a large proportion belongs to a new variant of the virus.

“While it is important to take swift temporary precautionary action to limit the further spread of the new strain of the virus and all non-essential travel to and from the UK should be discouraged, essential travel and transit of passengers should be facilitated,” the Commission said.

According to the recommendation, flight and train bans should be discontinued given the need to ensure essential travel and avoid supply chain disruptions.

The Commission’s recommendation builds on the EU Council’s recommendation of October 13 on a coordinated approach to free movement in response to the Covid-19-pandemic.

“Blanket travel bans should not prevent thousands of EU and UK citizens from returning to their homes,” Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, said.

According to the recommendation, union citizens and UK citizens travelling to their member state or country of residence as well as third-country nationals that enjoy EU free movement rights should be exempted from further temporary restrictions provided that they undergo a test or quarantine.

Also, travellers with an essential function, for instance medical staff, should be required to undergo a test (RT-PCR test or a rapid antigen test within 72 hours prior to departure), but should not be required to undergo quarantine while exercising this essential function.

The Commission said that transport staff, within the EU, should be exempted from any travel ban across any border and from testing and quarantine requirements when they are travelling across a border to and from a vessel, vehicle, or aircraft.

“Within the EU, it is crucial that transport workers are exempted from any restrictive measures… We have to continue to maintain the supply chains intact, in line with our Green Lanes Communication,” Commissioner for Transport, Adina Vălean, said.

Moreover, the recommendation notes that cargo flows need to continue uninterrupted, in accordance with the Green Lanes and the Air Cargo Communication, not least to ensure the timely distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, for example.

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