Friday

27th May 2022

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.

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.

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.

Covid variants put Schengen under pressure

The EU Commission also raised concerns about the proportionality of Belgium's ban on non-essential travel, for people wishing to leave the country.

Opinion

What Europe still needs to do to save its bees

On World Bee Day, it is essential to pay homage to a variety of pollinating insects crucial for our food security. A number of EU projects contribute to their sustained survival.

Opinion

The EU Parliament Covid inquiry: the questions MEPs must ask

A basic lack of transparency around the EU's vaccines procurement negotiations has prevented effective public and parliamentary scrutiny. It has also made it impossible to answer some of the key questions we put forward here.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us