Fear of virus mutations: EU wants to restrict travel within Europe | Tyrolean daily newspaper online
EU-Kommissionspräsidentin Ursula von der Leyen und EU-Ratschef Charles Michel.
© OLIVIER HOSLET
Brussels – Travel could soon become even more arduous with new Corona requirements in Europe. Further restrictions would be considered, reported EU Council leader Charles Michel after a video summit of the heads of state and government of the European Union on Thursday evening. New test and quarantine obligations for people from “dark red zones” with very high numbers of corona cases are up for debate. France is planning such obligations for most European travelers from Sunday.
The heads of state and government see the situation as very serious because of the new, more contagious variants of the corona virus, Michel said after the four-hour video conference. They are fighting on two fronts: speed up vaccinations in Europe and contain the virus. The EU health agency ECDC now classifies the risk from the spread of the new variants as high / very high – i.e. higher than before.
📽️ Video | EU countries for further travel restrictions
The borders in the EU should remain open in order to secure the transport of important goods and the freedom to provide services in the EU internal market, said Michel. “There should be no undifferentiated travel bans.” At the same time, further restrictions on non-essential travel may be necessary in order to slow the spread of the virus.
“Dark red” category on Corona traffic light
EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen explained that her authority wanted to propose an expansion of the already existing Corona traffic light card. Accordingly, a new “dark red” category is to be introduced for regions in which the coronavirus is spreading very widely. On the existing map, regions are already marked either green, orange or red on the basis of common criteria, depending on the infection process.
Von der Leyen said that people who want to travel from the dark red zones in the future could be required to have a test before departure and quarantine after arrival. Travel that is not necessary should be strongly discouraged. In the foreseeable future, people who have been vaccinated will not find it easier to travel. The 27 states want to work on a common vaccination certificate. However, the debate on possible related benefits was postponed.
Compulsory PCR testing in France
According to government sources, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that European travelers will in future have to show a corona test when entering France. This PCR test must not be older than 72 hours. The regulation applies from Sunday at midnight. Exceptions are provided for “essential” trips – this applies above all to cross-border commuters and the movement of goods.
Before the summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had campaigned for closer cooperation with the EU states, but had not completely ruled out controls at German borders. “If a country with an incidence that is perhaps twice as high as Germany opens all shops while they are still closed in our country, then of course you have a problem,” she said in Berlin.
In the Schengen area, to which 26 European countries belong, there is actually freedom of movement without stationary border controls. However, at the beginning of the pandemic, a number of countries had, in some cases uncoordinated, closed borders or initiated controls. The EU Commission absolutely wants to avoid a repetition.
Kurz expects new vaccine soon
Regarding the vaccinations, which have only started slowly in the EU, Michel said that the heads of state and government wanted an acceleration. However, the principle should remain that the vaccines are distributed in the EU at the same time and according to population size.
When it comes to vaccination, it is still rumbling in many EU countries. At the video summit, there were many questions about transparency and delivery schedules for the various vaccines, reported an EU representative. Because the companies Biontech and Pfizer can deliver less vaccine than planned at short notice, some vaccination appointments have been canceled in Germany. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz wrote on Twitter that at the video summit everyone agreed that vaccines should be delivered as soon as possible. He expects AstraZeneca’s vaccine to be approved by next week at the latest.
“That means up to two million cans in the first quarter” for Austria, said Kurz. If the delivery is complete, all over 65-year-olds could be vaccinated in the first quarter.
The EU Commission is also expecting new vaccines and larger quantities soon and is urging the 27 states to set ambitious goals. By summer, 70 percent of adults in the EU are said to be immunized against the virus, and by March 80 percent of people over the age of 80 and of nursing and health workers. (TT.com, dpa)