Clarity on EU free movement restrictions

 

EU travel has never been so confusing with the ever-changing entry requirements and border rules. Each EU nation has established their own set of entry rules and restrictions, often different from the rules of their neighbours.

Some countries have a long list of nations that can visit without tests or quarantines, while others have extremely strict testing rules. Some countries are even re-closing their borders after surges in cases, causing major disruptions in travel plans.

Citizens and businesses however need predictability. The EC believes Member States must make all efforts to minimise the social and economic impact of travel restrictions, which should include the provision of information to the public in a clear, comprehensive and timely manner.

The EC proposal sets out four key areas where Member States should work closer together:

  • Common criteria and thresholds for Member States when deciding whether to introduce travel restrictions;
  • mapping of common criteria using an agreed colour code;
  • a common framework for measures applied to travellers from high-risk areas; and
  • clear and timely information to the public about any restrictions.

The proposal to Member States is a well-coordinated, predictable and transparent approach to travel restrictions where these are needed.

There is currently a wide discrepancy between national criteria for introducing measures that restrict free movement in the European Union. The proposal is that each Member State takes into account the following criteria when putting in place any restrictive measures:

  • The total number of newly notified COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in a given area in a 14-day period.
  • The percentage of positive tests from all COVID-19 tests carried out in given area during a seven-day period.
  • The number of COVID-19 tests carried out per 100,000 people in a given area during a seven-day period.

Member States should provide this data on a weekly basis to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Member States should also provide this data at the regional level to ensure that any measures can be targeted to those regions where they are strictly necessary.

On the basis that the Member State of departure has a weekly testing rate of more than 250 per 100,000 people, the Commission is proposing that Member States should not restrict free movement of people travelling from another Member State where:

  • The total number of newly notified COVID-19 cases in a given area is equal to less than 50 per 100 000 people during a 14-day period, OR,
  • The percentage of positive tests from all COVID-19 tests in a given area is less than 3%.

The proposal suggests that the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control publishes a map of EU and EEA countries, updated weekly, with a common colour code to support Member States and travellers:

  • Green for an area where the total number of newly notified COVID-19 cases is less than 25 during a 14-day period AND the percentage of positive tests from all COVID-19 tests is less than 3%;
  • Orange for an area where the total number of newly notified COVID-19 cases is less than 50 during a 14-day period BUT the percentage of positive tests from all COVID-19 tests is 3% or more OR the total number of newly notified COVID-19 cases is between 25 and 150 BUT the percentage of positive tests from all COVID-19 tests is less than 3%;
  • Red for an area where the total number of newly notified COVID-19 cases is more than 50 during a 14-day period AND the percentage of positive tests from all COVID-19 tests is 3% or more OR the total number of newly notified COVID-19 cases is more than 150 per 100,000 people during a 14-day period;
  • Grey if there is insufficient information available to assess the criteria proposed by the Commission OR the number of COVID-19 tests carried out per 100,000 people is less than 250.

Member States that introduce restrictions to free movement based on their own decision-making processes, could require persons travelling from an area classified as red or grey to either undergo quarantine OR undergo a COVID-19 test after arrival. The EU position on the USA is that it is a red area that no state should allow entry from.

Where justified, Member States could consider recommending that persons travelling from an area classified as orange undergo at least a COVID-19 test prior to departure or upon arrival. Member States could require persons arriving from an area classified as red, orange or grey to submit passenger locator forms, notably those arriving by airplane, in accordance with data protection requirements. Travellers with an essential function or need – such as workers exercising critical occupations, frontier and posted workers, students or journalists performing their duties - should not be required to undergo quarantine.

The proposal wants Member States to provide details of upcoming restrictions to free movement or the lifting of travel restrictions to Member States and the Commission on a weekly basis. Changes should be notified a week before entering into force.

Information should also be made available on the Re-open EU web platform, with a link to the weekly-published map by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

The EU is not involving the UK in the proposals.

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