Aiming to ensure better coordination and communication of travel-related measures at EU level, the European Commission on Monday proposed an update to the Council’s recommendation of last October on coordinating measures affecting free movement in the European Union in response to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
“The situation in Europe with the new variants have led us to take difficult but necessary decisions. We need to keep safe and discourage non-essential travel,” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter.
Border closures will not help, common measures will
The Commission’s recommendation calls for common measures, noting that border closures or blanket travel bans must be avoided and the functioning of the Single Market and supply chains remain uninterrupted.
“Further targeted action to ensure a coordinated approach on measures restricting free movement within the EU is necessary,” the Commission said in a statement.
The Commission’s proposal sets out coordination in two areas: an update to the common colour code of the ECDC maps and stricter measures for travellers from higher-risk areas.
Adding ‘dark red’ to the traffic light system of risk for countries
In addition to the existing colours of green, orange, red and grey of the ECDC maps, the Commission is proposing to add ‘dark red’ to indicate areas where the virus is circulating at very high levels. This would apply to an area where the 14-day notification rate is more than 500 per 100,000 people.
“The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) will continue to publish updated versions of the map based on data provided by Member States,” the Commission said.
Stricter measures for travellers from higher-risk areas
As per the Commission’s Communication of January 19 setting out actions needed to avoid a third wave, the Commission proposes that all non-essential travel should be strongly discouraged until the epidemiological situation has considerably improved. This especially concerns travel to and from ‘dark red’ areas. When doing so, Member States should ensure consistency with the measures they apply to travel within their own territory.
For people travelling from a ‘dark red’ area, Member States should require them to take a test prior to arrival and undergo quarantine as recommended by the Health Security Committee and currently practiced by several Member States.
“As testing capacity has increased, Member States could make greater use of pre-departure tests also for areas currently mapped as ‘orange’, ‘red’ or ‘grey’. People returning to their Member State of residence should be allowed to take a test after arrival instead,” the Commission said.
Moreover, in view of the risks linked to very high numbers of new infections, the Commission recommends, based on ECDC guidance, that Member States agree to adopt, maintain or reinforce non-pharmaceutical interventions such as stay-at-home measures and the temporary closing of certain businesses, in particular in areas classified as ‘dark red’, to strengthen testing and tracing and to increase surveillance and sequencing of COVID-19 cases to gather information on the spread of new, more infectious coronavirus variants.
The Commission’s recommendation also notes that people living in border regions should be exempted from some of the travel restrictions and Member States should seek to avoid disruptions to essential travel, notably to keep transport flows moving in line with the ‘Green Lanes’ system and to avoid supply chain disruptions.
It is reminded that the latest information on coronavirus measures as well as travel restrictions provided to the Commission by Member States are available on the Re-open EU platform.