The COVID-19 outbreak is a serious threat to public health. Lockdowns and other coordinated restrictive measures are necessary to save lives. However, these measures may also severely slow down our economies and can delay the deliveries of critical goods and services. The European Commission has taken measures to ensure continued and uninterrupted land, waterborne and air cargo services. These services are of crucial importance for the functioning of the EU's internal market and its effective response to the current public health crisis.
Travel advice and Border measures
Travel advice is a national competence and you should check if your national authority, e.g. the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has issued an official travel warning concerning your planned destination. Travel advice is continuously updated as the situation evolves.
According to the latest update (26 March 2020), all EU Member States but Ireland apply restrictions to people’s movement.
Temporary non-essential travel restrictions
To contain the spreading of the virus, on 16 March, the European Commission recommended to Member States to apply a temporary 30 day coordinated restriction of non-essential travel from third countries into the EU. Following the endorsement by EU leaders, all EU Member States (except Ireland) and all Schengen Associated Countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland) are now applying this travel restriction.
Health screenings and border controls
All relevant border control measures should be coordinated amongst Member States at EU level in order to harmonise the border controls in practise. These exceptional measures are implemented on the principles of necessity and proportionality.
Delays in the delivery of goods can cause critical shortages. The introduced restrictive measures to slow down the spread of the virus have also slowed down transportation across Europe. During this crisis, it is vital to ensure that medicines, protective equipment and other goods can reach hospitals, doctors' practices and nursing homes. That is why the European Commission acted. The European supply chain is maintained through an extensive network of freight transport services, including land, waterborne and air cargo services. Continued and uninterrupted transportation services is of crucial importance for the functioning of the EU's internal market and its effective response to the current public health crisis.
On 16 March, the European Commission issued guidelines for border management measures, striking the right balance between protecting citizens' health, notably travellers and passengers, and ensuring that essential goods and services remain available across Europe.
Ensuring the free flow of goods and services
To keep freight moving freely and efficiently across the EU, the European Commission has issued practical advice on the implementation of ‘green lanes’ – border crossings open to all freight vehicles carrying goods where any checks or health screenings should not take more than 15 minutes.
The Commission also calls on EU Member States to support air cargo operations during the coronavirus crisis and presented new guidance to keep essential transport flows moving, including those of medical supplies and personnel.
Passengers can be reassured that their rights are protected. You may find comprehensive information on your passenger rights here.
On 18 March 2020, the European Commission published interpretative guidelines on how certain provisions of the EU passenger rights legislation should be applied in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak and thereby ensure clarity and legal certainty in the application of passenger rights.
At the same time, the guidelines clarify that the current circumstances are “extraordinary” e.g., compensation may not be given in case of flight cancellation less than two weeks before departure date.
If you have booked a package tour, you may find further information on your rights as set out in the travel package directive below.
Consular assistance for EU citizens abroad
As flights are suspended and borders are being closed because of the COVID-19 outbreak, many Europeans find themselves stranded abroad.
The European Commission and the European External Action Service help in bringing home stranded EU citizens, while Member States issue advice about how to handle the travel restrictions. EU citizens in need of assistance outside the EU are encouraged to contact their Member State.
Under EU law, citizens are entitled to seek help from the embassy or consulate of any EU country other than their own if they find themselves in a situation where they need assistance outside the EU, with no embassy or consulate from their own Member State effectively in position to help them.
More information about EU citizens’ rights to diplomatic or consular protection outside the EU can be found here.
Advice for consumers in Europe
The European Consumer Centre Network provides advice and assistance to citizens around consumers’ rights on cross-border issues. This includes, but is not limited to, hotel or travel bookings affected by virus. Information on resolving consumer disputes is also available on the European Online Dispute Resolution Platform.
Beware of online scams related to products that allegedly can cure or prevent the COVID-19 infection. Rogue traders advertise and sell products, such as protective masks, caps and hand sanitizers to consumers, which allegedly prevent or cure an infection but they may be fake.
Transportation advice by sector
The Member States and the European Commission are taking resolute action to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the transportation sector, as to ensure the quick and continuous flow of goods across the EU. This includes, but not limited to essential goods such as food and medical supplies.
The Commission has established a weekly coordination group “COVID-19/Corona Information Group – Borders” with the participation of Member States, Schengen Associated Countries, the Council and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency so as to swiftly be able to adapt to the situation as it evolves.
The continued and uninterrupted land transport is of crucial importance for the functioning of the EU's internal market and its effective response to the current public health crisis.
President von der Leyen has set out four objectives to ensure the continued functionality of freight transport on Europe’s roads:
- First, crossing the border on a ‘green lane’ should take maximum 15 minutes, including any checks or health screenings. General advice at points of entry for public health measures and screening.
- Second, the ‘green lanes’ should be open to vehicles carrying any type of goods. Our supply chains in Europe are closely integrated. We need to ensure the free circulation of all goods.
- Third, national governments should suspend restrictions wherever possible – for instance bans to drive during the weekends or at night. This is an exceptional situation and we need to be flexible.
- Fourth, we need to reduce the paper work for transport workers of all nationalities, to enable them to cross borders more rapidly.
On 23 March 2020, the Commission issued new practical advice on how to keep freight moving across the EU during the current pandemic. Member States were requested to designate, without delay, all the relevant internal border-crossing points on the trans-European transport network (TEN-T) as ‘green lane' border crossings. The green lane border crossings should be open to all freight vehicles, whatever goods they are carrying.
Border crossing times for trucks can be found here.
The COVID-19 outbreak is having a major impact on the international and European aviation industry. Under the EU rules, Member States can employ various necessary measures to contain the spread of disease, such as suspending flights from other EU Member States. The criteria for deciding what measures to take should be coordinated across the EU. In particular, it is crucial to maintain transport connections needed to provide the health emergency response.
The European Commission has published a Safety Information Bulletin supported by promotional material (posters) for airports, airlines and their crews regarding the COVID-19 outbreak. These recommendations are non-legally binding recommendations (mainly from the World Health Organisation) on how to detect and manage sick passengers in airplanes and airports, see
An ad hoc working group of experts from the “EU Healthy Gateways joint action” consortium published advice for preparedness and response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Advice is also available for aircraft operators and staff.
Preventing “ghosts flights” and ensuring flexibility for airlines
Air traffic is expected to decline further in the coming weeks. In order to help ease the impact of the outbreak, the European Commission rapidly put forward targeted legislation to temporarily alleviate airlines from their airport slot usage obligations under EU law. This amendment to the EU Slot Regulation is in the process of being approved swiftly by the European Parliament and the Council of the EU.
Cargo deliveries by air remain crucial for Europe. The European Commission has therefore issued guidance on 26 March 2020 for the continued support of air cargo operations
The measures include inviting Member States to grant temporary traffic rights for additional cargo operations from outside the EU, if restrictions would normally apply. Member States should also temporarily remove night curfews and/or slot restrictions at airports for essential air cargo operations, and enable the use of passenger aircraft for cargo-only operations if necessary. Aircrew flying the aircraft should be exempted from travel restrictions if they do not show symptoms of a COVID-19 infection.
Any restrictions incompatible with EU laws must be lifted. The continuation of supply chains via air, especially of highly critical medical supplies, is in the common interest of all.
These exceptional measures will be temporary for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.
An ad hoc working group of experts from the “EU Healthy Gateways joint action” consortium published advice for preparedness and response to the COVID-19 outbreak: