Brussels (dpa) – Travel could soon become even more difficult with new corona requirements in Europe. Further restrictions would be considered, EU Council leader Charles Michel reported after a video summit of the European Union’s heads of state or government.
New testing and quarantine obligations for people from “dark red zones” with very high numbers of corona cases are under discussion. France is already planning such obligations for most European travelers on Sunday.
The heads of state and government see the situation as very serious due to the new, more contagious variants of the coronavirus, Michel said after the four-hour video conference. They are fighting on two fronts: speeding up vaccinations in Europe and controlling the virus. The EU health agency ECDC now classifies the risk of spreading the new variants as high / very high – ie higher than before.
Borders in the EU must remain open to secure the transport of important goods and the freedom to provide services in the EU’s internal market, Michel said. “There should be no undifferentiated travel bans.” Nonetheless, further restrictions on non-essential travel may be necessary to slow the spread of the virus.
Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission, explained that her authority wanted to propose an extension of the already existing Corona traffic light map. That is why there will be a new category “dark red” for regions where the corona virus is very widespread. On the existing map, the regions are already highlighted in green, orange or red based on common criteria, depending on the infection process.
Von der Leyen said people who wish to travel from the dark red zones in the future should undergo a test before departure and quarantine after arrival. Travel that is not required should be strongly discouraged. In the near 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 about possible related benefits was delayed.
According to government sources, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that European travelers will have to show a corona test upon entering France. This PCR test must not be older than 72 hours. The scheme applies from midnight on Sunday. Exceptions are made for “essential” journeys – this is especially true for cross-border commuters and freight traffic.
Before the summit, Chancellor Angela Merkel had campaigned for closer cooperation with EU countries, but had not completely ruled out controls at Germany’s borders. “If a country with an incidence maybe twice as high as Germany opens all stores while they are still closed in our country, then of course you have a problem,” she said in Berlin.
About the vaccinations, which are only slowly getting underway in the EU, Michel said that the heads of state and government wanted to speed up. However, the principle must remain that vaccines are distributed in the EU at the same time and according to population size.
At the video summit, there were many questions about transparency and delivery schedules for the different vaccines, an EU representative reported. Because the companies Biontech and Pfizer can deliver less vaccine than planned in the short term, some vaccination agreements have been canceled in Germany.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz wrote on Twitter that on 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.
The European Commission is urging the 27 states to set ambitious goals. By the summer, 70 percent of adults in the EU would have been vaccinated against the virus, and by March 80 percent of those over 80 or working in health and care services. Merkel only confirmed that everyone in Germany wanted a vaccination offer by the end of the summer – that is, by September 21.