The 27 Member States of the European Union will start using the same criteria to determine the colour codes and possible travel restrictions for other countries and regions, the Council decided on Tuesday.
Up until now, it was up to the Member States to decide what colour they assigned certain travel zones in other countries, leading to confusion for travellers because of constantly changing travel restrictions and quarantine rules.
With the EU’s coordinated approach, EU countries will now provide the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) with data about the coronavirus on their territory every week, after which a uniform map of the EU will be published.
European Commissioner Didier Reynders, who already proposed a way to impose uniform travel restrictions at the beginning of September, said on Flemish radio that this is a recommendation, not a law, but that he expects all Member States to stick to it.
The ECDC will assign colours to countries and regions based on the number of new cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the last 14 days, the number of tests per 100,000 inhabitants carried out in the last week, and the percentage of positive tests carried out in the last week (positivity rate).
If the number of new confirmed infections in the last 14 days is below 25 per 100,000 inhabitants, and the test positivity rate is below 4%.
If the number of new confirmed infections in the last 14 days is below 50 per 100,000 inhabitants, but the test positivity rate is 4% or above.
If the number of new confirmed infections in the last 14 days is between 25 and 150 per 100,000, but the test positivity rate is below 4%.
If the number of new confirmed infections in the last 14 days is 50 or more per 100,000 inhabitants, and the percentage of positive tests is 4% or above.
If the number of new confirmed infections in the last 14 days is higher than 150 per 100,000 inhabitants.
If there is insufficient data, or if the testing rate is lower than 300 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Until now, countries have been reluctant to agree to these uniform arrangements and restrictions, as the number of tests that are carried out varies from country to country.
No coordinated arrangements have been made about restrictions for travellers going to or returning from a red or orange zones, but the Member States should “act in a proportionate manner,” according to the Council’s recommendation.
Each state is free to decide what restrictions it imposes, but they “should in principle not refuse entry to persons travelling from other member states.”
Requiring a test upon return from a non-green zone, imposing a quarantine, or a combination of both remains a possibility. However, no restrictions on the free movement of people travelling to or from green areas should be imposed.
Any measures that restrict the free movement have to be “proportionate” and “non-discriminatory,” and have to be lifted as soon as the epidemiological situation allows, according to the Council.
Additionally, Member States that want to introduce new travel restrictions have to inform the affected countries at least 48 hours in advance. Citizens have to be informed at least 24 hours before the new measures take effect.