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European Commission to discuss scrapping 'traffic light' system for travel

A two-day EU summit in Brussels will see EU Member States seek to make travel easier for the fully vaccinated

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Passengers wearing protective masks in Ben Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv, on February 27, 2020. Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

Passengers wearing protective masks in Ben Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv, on February 27, 2020. Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

Passengers wearing protective masks in Ben Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv, on February 27, 2020. Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

EU Member States are trying to reach agreement on ways to ease pandemic travel restrictions within and into the bloc as leaders work to boost Covid-19 vaccination levels.

One option under discussion ahead of a two-day EU summit in Brussels is a plan to effectively scrap the traffic-light system of green and red areas in the bloc that has been used to govern travel rules and instead allow anyone who has been vaccinated to travel freely, according to a European Commission informal proposal seen by Bloomberg.

The plan would rely on the use of the widely adopted EU digital Covid Certs, which have allowed travellers to cross borders without tests or quarantines since the summer if they can show they've been fully inoculated or recovered from the virus. Travellers without a Covid Cert could be required to undergo tests after arriving in their destination.

"Given the very sizeable impact on the exercise of free movement, persons traveling within the EU should in principle no longer be required to quarantine save for very exceptional situations (e.g. new variants of concern)," the European Commission proposal says.

Other jurisdictions have begun to open up rapidly in recent weeks after a slower start, with the UK simplifying its own traffic light system to a green and red list, with the latter now featuring only seven countries as of last week.

The US, meanwhile, will admit vaccinated foreigners starting from November 8, spurring demand on transatlantic routes that rank as the most lucrative for airlines and travel firms.

At the same time, there are some worrying Covid trends that could slow the push to relax the rules. Tuesday saw the most single-day confirmed deaths in Europe since April, with the seven-day average also on the rise. Ireland's infection rates are also rising.

A second option proposed by the Commission would retain the traffic-light system, but refine the data used to produce the ratings. Member nations would be encouraged to implement simpler and more standardised rules for handling travellers from red or grey zones.

The Commission proposal would also maintain the use of the so-called emergency brake mechanism to be used to case of new variants of concern or outbreaks, but would aim to establish a common framework for when new restrictions should be triggered.

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