Poble Espanyol - traditional architectures in Barcelona, Spain

The European Union has initiated a move to simplify travel once again, which in the year 2020, can only be compared to the moon landing. “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. Travel might just become manageable again.

Global pandemic fears lead countries throughout Europe and abroad to unilaterally close borders without notice, locking out citizens and visitors alike, against the spirit of free movement which the European Union offers.

Now, the EU has ratified a coordinated plan to simplify potential travel restrictions and cross border practices, while ensuring European Union citizens won’t be left out of any country.

Europe Moves To Three Tier Travel System

The European Union has done the impossible in an age of political polarization and ‘alternative facts’, agreeing on a set of data and principles to lead travel throughout the bloc. The move, proposed in early September, has now been adopted by member states.

The European Centers For Disease Control (ECDC) will guide the European union bloc in classifying all EU countries as Green, Red, or Orange, based on their epidemiological status, which will determine how countries treat arrivals. For starters, anyone coming from a “green” country will not be subject to any restrictions.

There’s even a handy FAQ.

Arrivals from Green countries, will not be subject to quarantine or any other travel restrictions, whereas Red countries would likely require testing and quarantine, though final rules are still subject to change. Countries have been advised to show nuance for orange countries, with potentially testing, but no quarantine.

The idea of ‘Re-open EU’ is simple.

  • Europe will create one map, with one resource, based on shared information.
  • All travel restrictions will be made clear on the Re-open EU website.
  • The EU has urged member states to communicate changes far in advance.
  • No quarantine will apply for any essential travel needs, or green visitors.
  • Member states should not deny other member states travel access.

All countries have agreed to use this data source as the official basis for mapping, rather than the previous approach where each country created their own maps of the pandemic, based on varying degrees of science or data. A centralized website titled ‘Re-open EU’ has been created.

For those outside of Europe wondering if this applies to them, kind of. The EU list of countries from outside the bloc which remain eligible for entry includes…

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Georgia
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • Rwanda
  • South Korea
  • Thailand
  • Tunisia
  • Uruguay
  • China, subject to confirmation of reciprocity
a large building with lights and people walking around

The map ‘stoplight’ color grid will be updated weekly, but that won’t necessarily mean countries will change entry protocols on a weekly basis, thankfully.

The entire concept of this coordinated effort is to create sustainable travel entry requirements, such as rapid testing for orange arrivals, no restrictions for green arrivals and test in unison with some form of quarantine for arrivals from red areas. Each country will have control over their measures for red and orange arrivals, but not for green arrivals or essential travel.

The EU has defined essential travel as…

  • workers or self-employed people exercising critical occupations including health care workers, frontier and posted workers as well as seasonal workers as referred to in the Commission Guidelines;
  • 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;
  • people travelling for imperative family or business reasons;
  • 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;
  • seafarers;
  • journalists, when performing their duties.

EU member countries will still be able to allow entry from red or orange areas without quarantine or further restrictions, should they choose to, and any restrictions will be clearly spelled out on the free, and publicly available EU map. Simply click a country, and all travel restrictions will be listed. The UK will count as part of this EU initiative until the end of the transition period, at midnight, December 31st, 2020.

Re-opening Travel During Covid-19

Countries are taking vastly different approaches to the reopening of travel during Covid-19, and without coordination, it’s been chaos. Citizens have been shut out from their own countries, and further afield in South America, a Japanese traveler visiting Machu Picchu was stranded in Peru for 7 months, after the country shut down all international flights in a matter of minutes.

A coordinated approach to what counts in terms of epidemiological risk, mixed with clear cut and well timed announcements of any changes to entry restrictions will allow travel to slowly recover.

Travelers can know in advance what they can expect should a country go from Green to orange, or Red, and can plan accordingly. Knowing that all EU countries will follow the same guidelines and adapt the same set of shared facts regarding pandemic risk is a tremendous confidence boost.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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1 Comment

  1. With cases rising all over Europe highly it seems difficult to think that visitors from the green zones will be heading there

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