The European Commission (EC) proposed new restrictions on travel to help stop the further spread of the coronavirus and its variants as not only the overall case numbers but the number of variants continue to rise across the continent.
As part of the new system, the EC will consider adding yet one more category to their “traffic light” scheme denoting the severity of infections in any given area, with green, yellow and red showing the areas of the virus’ prevalence.
Gray is also used to show that there is insufficient data available to show the status of infections in a given area.
Now, “Dark Red” will be added to the visual aid to show areas to which travel is actively discouraged. All those arriving from “red” areas are made to restrict their movements and then given the option of taking a PCR test after having been in place for five days.
Those coming from “orange” areas can provide a negative PCR test to avoid restrictions upon their arrival and people coming from “green” areas are not required to isolate at all.
At the moment, only Norway, Greece and Finland are in the “orange” zone, although Greece has the one area of “green” in their Aegean islands.
The rest of the entire European Union, including Ireland is now shown as red on the coronavirus map.
Non-essential travel “strongly discouraged”
The EC’s Monday statement says “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.”
Media reports say that this will entail a requirement for a PCR test to be taken prior to arrival in addition to a quarantine after arrival in the destination country.
However, exclusions will apply to this proposed ruling for those living near the borders of neighboring countries, as the statement stipulates that “People living in border regions should be exempted from some of the travel restrictions.”
Coming into the EU from outside
The EC stated that it will also consider how best to address the problem of travelers coming into the countries of the EU from other nations, as it will propose a system based on each country’s testing rate, the rate of positive tests and the presence of any coronavirus variants.
The EC also suggested that there should be mandatory testing before departure and the use of a common European Passenger Locator Form for all passengers in the future.
In their statement the EC also addressed the rising concern over the prevalence of new covid-19 variants, saying “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, travelers should be required to quarantine and take additional tests upon or after arrival.”
Conditions allowing eventual easing of travel restrictions
The EC also stipulated which parameters should be used when restrictions on travel are eased for those coming into the EU. Conditions include the country of origin’s 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 citizens being below 25, and their testing rate per 100,000 people in the last week being over 300.
In addition, the nation’s positivity rate should be below four percent and the prevalence of any new variants also must be taken into consideration, according to the new recommendations.