Saturday

8th May 2021

EU adds new 'dark red' zone to travel-restrictions map

  • Belgium has now imposed an international travel ban on non-essential journeys from Wednesday (27 January) to 1 March (Photo: Steven Thompson)

The European Commission has proposed additional measures to limit non-essential travel within and to the EU - amid fears over more transmissible mutations triggering a new surge in cases across the bloc.

"There is currently a very high number of new infections across many member states, [so] there is an urgent need to reduce the risk of travel-related infections to lessen the burden on overstretched health care systems," EU commissioner for justice, Didier Reynders said on Monday (25 January).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"Border closures will not help, common measures will," he added.

The EU executive has suggested tightening the restrictions in regions with a very high incidence of cases (that is, more than 500 infections per 100,000 inhabitants), while also strongly discouraging all non-essential travel across the EU.

The new recommendation, which member states are expected to approve in the next few weeks, would redefine the infection maps that the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) prepares weekly to coordinate coronavirus travel restrictions.

From now on, EU regions will be divided into green, orange, red, and new 'dark red' zones, according to Covid-19 infection rates.

According to the commission, the new dark red category has been introduced to indicate "areas where the virus is circulating at very high levels, including because of more infectious variants of concern".

Under the new proposal, those travelling from a dark red zone would be required to take a test before arrival and to undergo quarantine.

Meanwhile, member states have set up their own strategies for those areas currently considered orange and red.

Only travellers from green areas would not face travel restrictions.

Certain groups, such as cross-border workers, transport staff, or people living in border regions, should be exempt from some restrictions, the commission added.

As of Monday, Portugal, Spain, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia, Sweden, Slovakia, Estonia, Cyprus, the Netherlands and Malta have all reported more than 500 infections per 100,000 inhabitants during the last two weeks.

The surge in the number of infections across Europe triggered Belgium to ban international non-essential travel from Wednesday (27 January) to 1 March.

This goes beyond the recommendations of the EU in terms of health restrictions and, thus, requires "a very clear explanation of the proportional, necessary and non-discriminatory nature" of the decision, Reynders said.

Failures on passenger forms?

Meanwhile, the commission has also recommended stricter measures on international travellers entering the EU from third countries.

All member states should require mandatory testing (at most 72 hours) before departure - which can be combined with a requirement of self-isolation, quarantine, or additional testing, as needed.

For trips originating from countries where the new variants of Covid-19 have been detected, the commission recommends member states apply all such precautions - including mandatory testing before departure, compulsory testing upon or after arrival, and quarantine for a period of up to 14 days.

One of the dangerous Covid variants, which was first detected in the UK in September 2020, has now been found in at least 60 countries worldwide.

Additionally, international travellers would be required to complete and submit a "passenger-locator" form, used by member states for contact tracing.

But member states have failed so far to create a working interoperable system for the EU itself, despite long-standing calls from the industry for a common EU approach on passenger-locator and health-declaration forms.

Finally, the commission has tightened the criteria used by member states to decide whether to ban travel from a specific non-EU country.

Until now, a ban on non-essential travel to the EU applied to many third countries - although not to Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and China.

EU rolls out vaccine, as UK-variant spreads

Most EU member states began rolling out the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19 on Sunday, as a more contagious variant from the UK begins to spread on the continent.

Opinion

First Covid, now McKinsey - how austerity hit EU healthcare

The marketisation of health and long-term care, the push for Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), and the public spending cuts encouraged by EU economic governance processes all contributed to the increased commercialisation, privatisation, and reduction of health and long-term care services.

EU Commission 'surprised' by Belgian travel ban extension

The European Commission has expressed surprise over the Belgian government's decision to extend the ban on non-essential travel, stressing that "all options" are on the table to ensure free movement across the bloc.

News in Brief

  1. Report: Czech minister plotted to bury evidence on Russian attack
  2. Putin promotes Russia's 'Kalashnikov-like' vaccine
  3. Coronavirus: Indian variant clusters found across England
  4. UN report encourages EU methane cuts
  5. EU court upholds ban on bee-harming pesticides
  6. Israeli tourists welcomed back by EU
  7. EU duped into funding terrorist group, Israel says
  8. Brussels prepares portfolio of potential Covid-19 treatments

Conservatives' Covid-strategy wins in lockdown-fatigue Madrid

Madrid conservative leader Isabel Diaz Ayuso has become a political phenomenon mainly because of her success in keeping Madrid open during the worst moments of the pandemic. However, critics accuse her of neglecting health services - while only protecting businesses.

Column

The EU needs a global vaccination strategy - right now

The further the vaccination campaign progresses, the more people will ask: what about the rest of the world? The EU should answer the question loud and clear now before it is drowned out by a rising chorus of criticism.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. MEPs win battle for bigger citizens' voice at Conference
  2. Hungary gags EU ministers on China
  3. Poland and Hungary push back on 'gender equality' pre-summit
  4. EU preparing to send soldiers to Mozambique
  5. EU now 'open' to vaccine waiver, after Biden U-turn
  6. EU mulls using new 'peace' fund to help Libyan coast guard
  7. Poland 'breaks EU law' over judges, EU court opinion says
  8. 11 EU states want to cut fossil-fuels from cross-border projects

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us