September 27, 2020
The European Commission (EC) has adopted a proposal to ensure that any measures taken by Member States that restrict free movement due to the coronavirus pandemic are coordinated and clearly communicated at the EU level. Anything has to be better than the current messy rules across the EU that are confusing for health and medical tourists, but the big stumbling block is that politicians have yet to agree to these logical proposals.
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:
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:
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 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:
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.
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