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EU countries adopt common travel guidelines amid pandemic

Brussels

European Union countries on Tuesday approved a series of guidelines aimed at facilitating free movement across the bloc and avoiding further disruption during the coronavirus pandemic.

During a meeting in Luxembourg, envoys for the 27 member states agreed on a common approach to travel restrictions and testing to help citizens and workers get more clarity on how they can transit across the continent.

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 action blocked traffic and medical equipment.

“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.”

Member states agreed to provide coronavirus data to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which will publish a weekly map sorting regions according to the severity of coronavirus outbreaks.

The criteria used to define the coloured zones, green, orange and red, are the number of newly notified cases per 100,000 in the past 14 days as well as the testing rate and the test positivity rate in the past week.

Member states agreed that they should not restrict free movement of people traveling from or to green areas, but national EU governments will continue to set their own restrictions such as quarantines or mandatory testing upon arrival for people coming from orange or red zones.

A region will be classified as green if the 14-day notification rate is lower than 25 and the test positivity rate below 4%.

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