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13th Aug 2022

EU unveils Covid-19 'colour-code' travel zones

  • The 'traffic light' scheme will have red, green and orange warnings - plus 'grey' zones for those areas with insufficient testing information (Photo: © European Union 2020 - Source : EP)

The European Commission announced on Friday (4 September) recommendations for members states on how to coordinate travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, including a 'traffic-light' colour-coding system of affected regions.

The proposal, based on ideas from the German EU presidency, includes common criteria on epidemiological risks, a shared 'colour-coding' of risk areas, as well as a joint approach on returning from high-risk areas.

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  • Until now, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has been publishing these regularly updated maps showing 14-day Covid-19 case-notification rate per 100,000 population

"The past few months have shown we can not take free movement for granted, [but] it is clear that we need more coordination," admitted the commissioner for justice, Didier Reynders.

EU commissioner for health, Stella Kyriakides, said this recommendation aims "to avoid further disruption of already fragile economies and additional uncertainty for citizens".

While member states have been taking mostly unilateral measures since the beginning of the pandemic, the commission's proposal is based on a new "zonal approach" - ideally consisting of member states' internal regional borders.

Firstly, the commission wants EU states to provide to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) with the number of new cases per 100,000 population over 14 days, plus tests carried out per 100,000 people during every seven-day period, and the test-positivity rates.

Then the ECDC will publish a weekly updated map based on a common colour code to "ensure that any decisions taken by the member states are consistent and well-coordinated," according to the commission recommendation.

'Traffic lights' system

Assuming that there is a testing rate of more than 250 per 100,000 people, "green" areas will be those regions that meet the dual tests of an infection rate of less than 25 cases per 100,000, and less than three-percent test-positivity rate.

Meanwhile, "orange" areas will be those with less than 50 cases per 100,000 people and a three-percent positive test rate or more - or between 25 and 150 cases per 100,000 people but less than three percent positive test.

And "red" will be used for those with more than 50 cases per 100,000 people and more than three percent test-positivity rate, or simply more than 150 cases per 100,000 people.

The EU executive also proposes to have "grey" areas when there is insufficient information available to assess the situation or testing is lower than 250 per 100,000 people.

According to the plan, travel restrictions should only apply to red and grey areas - although member states could still require people arriving from an area classified as red, orange or grey to submit passenger location forms, especially for those arriving by plane.

Moreover, member states would be forced to phase out all restrictions applied to all those areas not classified as red or grey seven days after the adoption of this recommendation - which is due by the European Council in the coming weeks.

Inform Brussels first

Meanwhile, EU capitals are expected to inform other member states and the commission before introducing any new restrictions for travellers coming from a red or grey areas - which could be, for example, to undergo a quarantine a test for Covid-19 infection after arrival.

But the commission said EU countries must mutually recognise the results of tests carried out in other member states by certified health bodies.

Additionally, the EU executive warned member states they should not impose any restrictions on people travelling to or from a red area unless they impose the same restrictions on a red area in their own territory.

The commission will update it ReOpen-EU website dedicated to informing citizens about restrictions in place in different EU countries.

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