The European Commission (EC) has issued a set of proposals to better coordinate and communicate on travel restrictions in the European Union (EU) during the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposals focus on ensuring greater predictability with common criteria for introducing COVID-19 measures and advance notice of weekly changes, common criteria for measures with a preference for testing over quarantine, and simplified communication of risk using a color-coded traffic light system.
Rafael Schvartzman, the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Regional Vice President for Europe said people want to travel, but the unpredictability in the way that governments are implementing COIVID-19 measures is killing demand.
“The EC’s proposals are an opportunity for Europe to move from lockdown to managing risks by learning to live with the virus. The goals of predictability and clarity are the right ones. People need easy access to the information so that they can plan. They need predictability to know that the rules won’t change overnight. And they need COVID-19 testing to avoid the risk of border restrictions, or the imposition of blanket quarantine measures that make travel impossible and have the same effect on travel demand as border closures.”
The EU is proposing to simplify infection rate calculations into four risk categories as follows:
- Green for an area where the total number of newly notified COVID-19 cases is less than 25 per 100,000 people 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 50/100,000 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 50/100,000 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;
- Gray 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.
Specifically, the EC is proposing that Member States should not restrict free movement of people traveling from another Member State that comply with specific criteria. The EC further states that travelers arriving from ‘red’ or ‘gray’ states could be required to undergo a COVID-19 test after arrival or prior to departure, the Commission’s preferred option, with quarantine only imposed as a last resort.
“Beyond simply measuring the spread of COVID-19, it is just as vital that governments agree the measures that should be imposed. Testing, together with robust track-and-tracing, is a much better solution than quarantine. The current patchwork of measures being deployed by governments around Europe makes no sense scientifically, does not encourage public confidence, and is hampering the restart of viable air services,” said Schvartzman.