European Commission to consider tightening travel restrictions for EU passengers

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Travel restrictions increase in Europe
Travellers wearing face masks arrive from Paris to St Pancras Station

The European Commission has proposed an update to the EU travel arrangement made last year to curb the spread of Covid-19 as case numbers continue to surge across much of Europe.

The Commission will consider adding another category to the EU traffic light system to denote areas of particular risk due to their rates of the virus.

Currently, red, orange, red and grey status has been attributed to regions in participating countries.

Passengers arriving from red regions are required to restrict their movements before being given the option to take a PCR test after five days, people from orange areas could provide a ‘not detected’ PCR result to avoid restrictions upon arrival, while visitors from green regions are not required to isolate. A grey status is given to any region which failed to provide sufficient data.

However, as the transmission of the virus has worsened in many EU countries the Commission will consider adding a ‘dark red’ category to further discourage non-essential travel.

Currently, Norway, Finland and Greece are the only countries with orange regions; with Greece also having one green region on the mainland and a collection of green-status islands to the southeast. The rest of the EU, including Ireland, has a red status.

A statement from the Commission said: “In light of new coronavirus variants and high numbers of new infections across many Member States, it is necessary to strongly discourage non-essential travel, while avoiding border closures or blanket travel bans and ensuring that the functioning of the Single Market and supply chains remain uninterrupted.

“Therefore further targeted action to ensure a coordinated approach on measures restricting free movement within the EU is necessary.”

In addition to the dark red category, stricter measures will also be considered for passengers arriving from “higher-risk areas”.

This is likely to include the requirement for a Covid test to be taken prior to arrival as well as a period of quarantine upon arrival.

The statement adds: “People living in border regions should be exempted from some of the travel restrictions.”

Travel from outside the EU
The topic of passengers arriving from countries outside the EU will also be considered by the Commission, proposing taking each country’s testing rate, testing positivity and detection of variants into account.

The Commission has also suggested mandatory testing before departure and a common European Passenger Locator Form for all such passengers.

Regarding newly detected variants of the virus, the Commission’s statement said: “For trips originating from countries where a variant of concern of the virus has been detected, Member States should systematically impose safety measures such as self-isolation, quarantine and contact tracing for a period of up to 14 days.

“In particular, travellers should be required to quarantine and take additional tests upon or after arrival.”

The Commission also recommend when the Council considers easing restrictions for passengers arriving from outside the EU, the country’s 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 should be below 25, their testing rate per 100,000 in the last week should be over 300, their positivity rate should be below 4 per cent and the nature of the virus in the country, such as if any new variants have been identified there, should be considered.

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