Although a growing proportion of travel restrictions in Europe are growing, the European Union is seeking support for a coordinated regional approach that would make it easier for potential travelers to understand the increasingly complex rules.
Brussels offers common criteria and thresholds for deciding on travel restrictions and a system that uses a color-coded map to indicate infection levels in different countries. EU officials will discuss the proposals at a summit this week.
Any such program would be voluntary, as decisions on travel restrictions on Covid-19 are in the spotlight of individual countries,
EU leaders are seeking to make travel restrictions easier to understand, as the confusing combination of restrictions prevents some potential passengers from crossing borders, hampering the region’s economic recovery.
Other regions are also looking for ways to detect at least limited travel without causing an increase in infections. Asian governments are involved in long, complex negotiations to create travel corridors between their countries, but in many cases the negotiations are hampered by details such as testing and quarantine protocols. US authorities are looking for a way to travel openly between New York and London, a key tourist and business route.
The easing of restrictions this summer has helped the European economy and partly saved the tourist season, which is crucial in countries such as Italy and Spain. But it also contributed to a significant jump in the number of infections. Countries such as the United Kingdom, France and Spain are now registering confirmed infections close to or higher than last spring. However, testing is now much more extensive and captures more infections than during the first wave.
The level of infection varies considerably in Europe, which poses a challenge for politicians.
A 14-day cumulative number of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people for selected countries
Air transport in Europe began to recover in June with the lifting of national blockades. The recovery in travel peaked in mid-August for most countries and has fallen sharply since then. According to Citigroup, the number of flights in Europe in the week to October 4 was almost two-thirds lower than the same period last year, compared to a 46% decline in the United States and 33% in the Asia-Pacific region.
Most of Europe is still banned from tourists arriving from the United States, although in many countries, including Italy and France, exchange students are allowed. They must be quarantined on arrival.
Efforts to identify and quarantine infected people on arrival may be futile, as many experts say most of the current transmission is not due to cross-border passengers, but involves communication from young people and large gatherings such as weddings.
“Restricting arrivals from abroad is not an effective method of limiting when you have a widespread pandemic, as we are currently seeing in most of Europe and the rest of the world,” said Enrico Buchi, a systemic biologist at Temple University who studies epidemics. “When a country is virus-free or almost virus-free, it is worth considering closing borders, as it can be effective.”
In France, which is struggling to keep one of Europe’s biggest outbreaks, tourists can enter from other EU countries and from places where infections are low, such as Canada and Australia. Tourists coming from most other countries are banned, but people traveling for work and other reasons are allowed if they have a negative Covid-19 test less than 72 hours before boarding the plane or airport when they arrive. in France.
In August, Italy introduced mandatory arrival tests for people coming from Spain, Malta and Croatia, and later added large parts of France. Last week, Italy expanded the list to include Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium and the Czech Republic. These countries have between 157 and 263 daily confirmed infections per million inhabitants, compared to 38 for Italy, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. Italy has blocked all arrivals from about 20 countries, including Bangladesh, Brazil and Serbia.
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In the Netherlands, people returning from countries with moderate levels of infection must be quarantined for 10 days. Civil servants, athletes and journalists have been released. In Belgium, travelers from countries with high levels of infection must be quarantined for seven days, with the obligation to be tested on the fifth day. They can end their quarantine only when they have a negative test.
The EU wants member states to use common criteria when deciding whether to open or close their borders. The criteria include the cumulative number of new infections per 100,000 people over a 14-day period and the percentage of positive tests over a seven-day period.
The EU’s color-coded map will use green to indicate countries that have a low number of daily infections and a positive test rate of less than 3%. The card will use orange and red to indicate higher tariffs and gray for countries that do not provide enough information or do not do enough testing.
In June, Britain imposed a 14-day quarantine on all people entering the country, but the following month lifted the rule for arrivals from 75 countries and territories. This list does not include the United States
Since the end of July, the UK has gradually reintroduced quarantine requirements for arrivals from a number of European countries, with a few exceptions such as Italy, Germany and Sweden. People entering from these countries must declare where they have been and where they will be isolated. Exceptions include diplomats, truck drivers and civil aviation workers.
The UK Ministry of Transport said on Wednesday that it had set up a working group to allow a safe return to global travel, including a study of a test regime for international arrivals and whether passengers could isolate themselves before departure.
“Stephen Fiedler, Matthew Dalton, and Valentina Pop contributed to this article.”
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