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'We want to simplify things' - EC proposes 'Green, Orange, Red' system to stop travel confusion

With travel uncertainty widespread throughout the EU, the European Commission is proposing a common 'colour code' system to restore clarity

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Ursula von der Leyen. Photo: Francois Walschaerts/Pool via REUTERS

Ursula von der Leyen. Photo: Francois Walschaerts/Pool via REUTERS

REUTERS

Ursula von der Leyen. Photo: Francois Walschaerts/Pool via REUTERS

EU Member States should adopt a common approach on travel restrictions based on a colour code of red, orange and green risk levels, the European Commission (EC) has said.

The commission today adopted a proposal for a European Council recommendation to try to simplify and co-ordinate individual member state measures that are increasingly confusing travellers.

Travel chaos has continued around Europe as countries go their own way on Covid-19 testing, travel restrictions and quarantines - from Ireland's 'green list' to the UK's short-notice quarantine announcements and the closure of Hungary's borders to foreigners since September 1.

The disruption and uncertainty has left travellers reeling, and continues to hammer confidence in tourism and thwart economic recoveries.

"It is very important to try and limit the spread of the virus," EC President, Ursula von der Leyen, said in a tweet announcing the proposal.

"But citizens are often left confused about where they can travel, which rules they must respect on the way, and what they must do on arrival to say safe.

"And as many citizens have experienced, these rules change very often. So we need to ensure more clarity and predictability."

Common criteria for travel restrictions should be based on the number of new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people in a 14-day period, as well as the rolling number of tests and percentage of positive results, the EC says.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) would then publish a map, updated weekly, showing green, red and orange areas. Under the system, 'red' would mean a country had both a rolling average of more than 50 cases per 100,000 and a positive test result percentage of 3pc or more.

Ireland's 14-day rolling average is currently 31.2 per 100,000.

The EC proposal comes exactly a month to the day since Ireland's 'green list' was last updated. The list was originally intended to be revised every two weeks, based on Covid-19 case levels abroad.

Now, however, it is unlikely to be updated before September 14, when the Government may choose to overhaul its travel restrictions system as part of a new, medium-term plan for dealing with the pandemic.

Covid-19 testing at airports is being discussed as part of the plans, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan has said, with changes to Ireland's quarantine and self-restriction rules also possible.

The commission's proposal will be discussed by the council with the aim of an adoption "in the coming weeks", it says.

Even if successfully adopted, however, it would be non-binding.

"For the many citizens who rely on frictionless travel every day, the cacophony of national rules in the EU is overwhelming," said Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders.

"We want to simplify things."

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