EU Sounds Cautionary Note on Virus With New Travel Guidance

European Union regulators offered a fresh set of safe-travel recommendations in bid to make it easier for people to cross national borders within the bloc while guarding against another resurgence of the coronavirus.

The guidelines in the run-up to the end-of-year holidays are the latest attempt to strike a balance between the responsibility of EU governments for health policy and the role of the European Commission in preventing barriers in the bloc’s single market.

The commission, the 27-nation EU’s regulatory arm, accompanied its latest recommendations with an appeal for prudence. The goal is to avoid a repeat of a rush to looser measures -- something that EU countries did several months ago in a bid to salvage the summer tourist season and that fueled spikes in Covid-19 infections.

“Like everything else this year, end-of-the-year festivities will be different,” EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said in a statement on Wednesday in Brussels. “We cannot jeopardize the efforts made by us all in the recent weeks and months.”

At the same time, the EU’s disease-control and aviation agencies issued a separate set of non-binding guidelines that urge member countries to avoid treating travelers as automatic high-risk sources of Covid-19 because the virus is now “well established” across the bloc.

“In such a scenario, testing and quarantine have only a limited impact on reducing the risk of spread, particularly with respect to travel between areas of similar risk or when moving from less risky ‘green’ areas to ‘orange’ or ‘red’ areas with greater prevalence of the disease,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the European Aviation Safety Agency said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.

European airline and airport groups, which have been vocal critics of what they say has been a patchwork of measures across Europe to tackle the pandemic, jumped on the ECDC-EASA input to call for an end to quarantines on travelers.

European governments should “immediately abolish quarantine measures and other travel restrictions,” Airlines for Europe and the Airports Council International Europe said in an emailed statement.

Following are the latest commission travel-related recommendations to EU governments:

  • Where available, encourage people who intend to travel to get the season flu vaccine.
  • Strongly discourage people with symptoms of Covid-19 from traveling
  • Where possible, increase public transport options and capacities to reduce crowding
  • Require the use of masks in public transport and ensure all vehicles are well ventilated
  • Ensure that workers in transport, tourism and other exposed sectors have protection measures
  • Ensure that, if quarantine and testing of travelers are requested, these requirements are proportionate and non-discriminatory
  • Assess how testing can lead to the lifting of quarantine or other restrictions for travelers
  • Where quarantine requirements are imposed for travel from a high-risk area, consider shortening the required quarantine time should a negative PCR test be obtained after seven days upon return
  • Ensure that travel infrastructure is equipped and manned respecting hygiene protocols

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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