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EU Puts ‘Dark Red’ Zones on Covid-19 Map to Curb Non-essential Travel

Photo source: IATA

The EU on Monday agreed to establish the color “dark red” to its traffic light system, which shows the Covid-19 risk levels across its regions, as an additional measure to discourage all but essential travel within and to its member states.

The announcement follows an updated recommendation of the European Commission on a coordinated approach to the restrictions of free movement in response to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic

Under the Commission’s recommendation, “dark red” has been added to the existing categories of green, orange, red and grey in the weekly map published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) to avoid non-essential travel, in order to slow down the importation and spread of the new variants of concern.

The colour will apply to areas where the virus is circulating at very high levels, including because of more infectious variants of concern. “Dark red” areas are defined as areas where the 14-day cumulative COVID-19 case notification rate is 500 per 100 000 people or more.

“Member states should discourage all non-essential travel to red and dark red areas, while at the same time seeking to avoid disruptions to essential travel,” the EU Council said in a statement.

According to the recommendation, member states should require persons travelling from an area classified as dark red to:

– undergo a test for Covid-19 infection prior to arrival
– undergo quarantine/self-isolation

Similar measures could apply to areas with a high prevalence of variants of concern.

Given the increase in Covid-19 testing capacity, the recommendation is also amended to give member states the option to require travellers coming from orange, red and grey areas to do a test before departure.

The recommendation adds that no restriction of free movement of persons should be applied in green areas.

Moreover, it is recommended that transport workers and transport service providers should in principle not be required to undergo a test. Where a member states requires them to undergo a test, rapid antigen tests should be used.

Also, people who live in border regions and cross the border daily or frequently, for instance for work, study or family reasons, should not be required to undergo testing or quarantine/self isolation. If a testing requirement is introduced, the frequency of tests on such persons should be proportionate.

“These updated measures are a coordinated response to the rise of infections and the risks posed by the more transmissible new variants of the virus within and outside the EU… By acting in a coordinated manner, member states aim to prevent the reintroduction of internal border controls and to ensure the free movement of goods and services is not disrupted,” the Council said.

It is reminded that the Council recommendation is not a legally binding instrument. The authorities of the member states remain responsible for implementing the content of the recommendation.

Press here to see the EU’s infographic on a common approach on Covid-19 travel measures.

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