BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union countries agreed on Friday to a common “traffic light” system to guide them on COVID-19 testing or quarantines on EU tourists and other non-essential travellers during the pandemic.
It aims to end a confusing patchwork of restrictions across Europe and to bring back free movement of people, one of the key principles of the EU, within the 27-nation bloc when conditions allow.
The system would lead to more “predictability and transparency” when travelling under COVID conditions in the EU, a spokesman for the German EU Council presidency said, calling it an important step forward.
The guidelines, which were backed by a majority of EU governments and will be formally adopted next week, advise that restrictions should be non-discriminatory, proportionate and limited to what is necessary.
Under the plan, regions across the European Union will be designated green, orange or red, based on the degree to which the virus is under control, and grey if data is insufficient. The idea is that all countries will grant access to visitors from green zones.
The European Centre of Disease Prevention and Control will provide weekly updates to assign the colours.
Based on its current assessment, with COVID-19 cases spiking across Europe, few areas would qualify as green – most of eastern Germany, parts of the Nordic and Baltic countries, Cyprus, certain regions of Bulgaria and Greece and one zone in Italy.
While individual EU countries are free to determine their own measures, they will be encouraged to be consistent, for example setting the same measures for all red zones.
A green status will apply to regions with fewer than 25 infections per 100,000 people in 14 days and where the percentage of positive tests is below 4%. Red means infection rates of 50 or more and positive tests of 4% or higher or infection rates of over 150 even with a low positive test rate.
Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop and John Chalmers; Editing by Frances Kerry