On 13 October, EU Member States adopted a Council Recommendation on a coordinated approach to the restriction of free movement in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
To limit the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, the EU’s 27 Member States have adopted various measures, some of which have had an impact on citizens’ right to move freely across the European Union, such as requirements to undergo quarantine or coronavirus test.
While the measures are intended to safeguard the health and wellbeing of citizens, they have had serious consequences for the economy and citizens’ rights. The right of European citizens to move and reside freely within the European Union is one of the most cherished achievements of the European Union, as well as an important driver of its economy.
A well-coordinated, predictable and transparent approach to the adoption of restrictions on freedom of movement is necessary to prevent the spread of the virus, safeguard the health of citizens as well as maintain free movement within the Union, under safe conditions. This is important for the millions of citizens who rely on cross-border travel every day, and crucial for our efforts to start safely re-building the economy.
The Recommendation sets out four key areas where Member States will coordinate their efforts:
1. Common criteria
Member States will take the following key criteria into account when considering to restrict free movement in response to the coronavirus pandemic:
- the notification rate (the total number of newly notified COVID-19 cases per 100 000 population in the last 14 days at regional level)
- the test positivity rate (the percentage of positive tests among all tests for COVID-19 infection carried out during the last week)
- the testing rate (the number of tests for COVID-19 infection per 100 000 population carried out during the last week)
To ensure that comprehensive and comparable data is available, Member States will provide the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control with the necessary data on a weekly basis.
2. A common map
Based on data provided by the Member States, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control will publish a map of EU Member States, broken down by regions, which will show the risk levels across the regions in Europe using a traffic light system. Regions will be indicated in the colours ‘green’, ‘orange’, ‘red’ and ‘grey’ (if not enough information is available).
This map will also include data from Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway.
In this map, an area should be marked in the following colours:
- green, if the notification rate is less than 25 and the test positivity rate is less than 4%;
- orange, if the notification rate is less than 50 but the test positivity rate is 4% or more, or, if the notification rate ranges from 25 to 150 but the test positivity rate is less than 4%;
- red, if the notification rate is 50 or more and the test positivity rate is 4% or more, or if the notification rate is more than 150;
- grey, if not sufficient information is available or if the testing rate is 300 or less.
- The map will also provide travellers with general information as to the risk level at their destination. Together with the information made available on the ‘Re-open EU’ web platform, travellers should be able to tell whether they can expect to be subject to certain measures if they travel to another region in the EU.
3. A common approach for travellers
On the basis of the common map, Member States will then decide whether they introduce certain restrictions, such as quarantine or tests, on travellers coming from other areas. Member States have agreed that there will be no restrictions, such as quarantine or testing, on travellers coming from ‘green’ regions.
Member States that consider it necessary to introduce restrictions to free movement, based on their own decision-making processes, could require persons travelling from an area classified other than ‘green’ to:
- undergo quarantine; and/or
- undergo a test for COVID-19 infection after arrival.
It is up to Member States to decide what measures to apply on people travelling from risk areas to their territories. This means that some Member States will not apply any restrictions on travel within the EU, while others might decide to apply certain measures, such as quarantine or testing, to travellers coming from ‘orange’, ‘red’ or ‘grey’ areas. Information on which Member States apply which measures will be available on the ‘Re-open EU’ web platform. Member States can also require people entering their territory to submit passenger locator forms, in accordance with data protection requirements.
Measures must not be discriminatory, meaning that they will also apply to returning nationals of the Member State concerned.
Travellers with an essential function or need will not be required to undergo quarantine. While performing their duties, this applies to:
- Workers or self-employed persons exercising critical occupations including health care workers, frontier and posted workers as well as seasonal workers as referred to in the Guidelines concerning the exercise of the free movement of workers during the COVID-19 outbreak;
- transport workers or transport service providers, including drivers of freight vehicles carrying goods for use in the territory as well as those merely transiting;
- patients travelling for imperative medical reasons;
- pupils, students and trainees who travel abroad on a daily basis;
- persons travelling for imperative family or business reasons (including members of cross-border families travelling on a regular basis);
- diplomats, staff of international organisations and people invited by international organisations whose physical presence is required for the well-functioning of these organisations, military personnel and police officers, and humanitarian aid workers and civil protection personnel in the exercise of their functions;
- passengers in transit;
- journalists, when performing their duties.
4. Clear and timely information to the public about any restrictions
Member States will provide details of upcoming restrictions to free movement or the lifting of travel restrictions to Member States and the Commission. These changes will also be published on Re-open EU. As a general rule, information on new measures will be published 24 hours before they come into effect.
This information should also be made available on Re-open EU, which should contain a cross-reference to the map published regularly by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.