Ministers from the 27 countries agreed to non-binding new guidelines at a meeting in Luxembourg, putting in place a common mapping system to define risk areas in the EU.

European Commissioner for Inter-Institutional Relations and Foresight Maros Sefcovic (L) with Ireland's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney in Luxembourg on October 13, 2020.
European Commissioner for Inter-Institutional Relations and Foresight Maros Sefcovic (L) with Ireland's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney in Luxembourg on October 13, 2020. (AFP)

EU countries have agreed on common criteria to coordinate coronavirus travel restrictions in an effort to end the confusing patchwork of national rules that has developed during the pandemic.

Ministers from the 27 countries agreed on the new guidelines at a meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday, putting in place a common mapping system to define risk areas in the EU, but the new recommendations are not binding on member states.

Under the plan, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control will publish a weekly map of the EU using a traffic light colour system to indicate the level of risk in each area.

Levels will be determined by a variety of epidemiological factors including new virus cases per 100,000 population in the preceding 14 days, and the level of positive tests. A fourth colour, grey, will be allocated to areas with not enough data.

Travellers coming from a red, orange or grey zone could be required to quarantine or take a test for Covid-19, while those coming from a green zone would not face any measures.

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The travel map

In March, several EU nations hastily closed their borders in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus, even though the EU’s Schengen agreement allows residents to move freely between countries without visas.

"The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted our daily lives in many ways. Travel restrictions have made it difficult for some of our citizens to get to work, to university or to visit their loved ones," said Michael Roth, the German minister for Europe. 

"It is our common duty to ensure coordination on any measures which affect free movement and to give our citizens all the information they need when deciding on their travel."

On the map, a region will be classified as green if the 14-day notification rate is lower than 25 and the test positivity rate below 4 percent. 

Under the criteria adopted on Tuesday, most EU regions would be either red or orange.

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Entry refusal and exceptions

EU countries would not be able to refuse entry to people coming from other member states, which Hungary is currently doing, with exceptions for Czechs, Poles and Slovaks.

The plans also include exceptions for people doing "essential" jobs, as well as a common contact tracing form for travellers.

France welcomed the decision, but Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, who abstained in the vote, said the text of the agreement was not yet at a finished state.

“This agreement avoids border closures and favours the least penalising health control measures, such as testing,” said Clement Beaune, the French minister for Europe. “Last but not least, essential movements, especially those of frontier workers, will be secured.”

Europe, which has seen more than 6.5 million cases of Covid-19 and 240,000 deaths, according to AFP figures, is battling to contain a second wave of the pandemic.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies