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Until the new rules go into effect, travelers coming to Italy from EU countries must either fill out a health form, procure a negative COVID test, or quarantine, depending on their country of origin.
A color-coded map system will indicate where coronavirus cases are surging and how countries should respond.
As residents of many countries—including the United States—remain banned from traveling to much of Europe, travel within Europe has not proven to be much easier throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
As of early October, travelers coming from the United Kingdom could enter France without restrictions, but those going in the opposite direction were required to quarantine for 14 days. Those heading to Germany from certain European countries and regions had to quarantine until they provided negative COVID-19 test results. Travelers to Italy coming from EU countries had to fill out a health form, unless they were coming from Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, or Spain (then they had to provide proof of a negative test). It went on and on.
But the dizzying patchwork of rules and regulations for travel within Europe should soon be a thing of the past. European Union countries this week approved a series of guidelines aimed at facilitating a more unified approach to travel within Europe during the pandemic.
The European Commission established a set of criteria that countries should follow to determine how and whether to restrict arrivals. They include:
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As countries furnish their coronavirus data, the ECDC will be able to produce a color-coded map (which will be published regularly on the European Commission’s Re-open EU site) that will allow for more informed and consistent decisions about travel restrictions across Europe.
Each week, the ECDC will publish an updated version of the map. Countries will then be able to implement either a quarantine or a mandatory COVID-19 test for travelers coming from countries coded as red or gray.
Under the criteria adopted Tuesday, most EU regions would currently be either red or orange because Europe is currently experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases.
During their October 13 meeting in Luxembourg, envoys for the 27 member states of the European Commission agreed on the common approach to travel restrictions. But because it’s not a binding agreement, independent countries can continue to implement either quarantine or testing measures (or even outright bans) as they see fit. The hope, however, is that some greater uniformity will emerge.
The European Commission is pushing for testing as a coronavirus control method over quarantines.
“Wherever possible, the possibility to undergo tests for COVID-19 infection instead of quarantine should be the preferred option,” the European Commission stated.
In a statement following the October 13 agreement, the European Commission said that European countries “learned our lessons: we will not surmount the crisis by unilaterally closing borders.”
The Commission said that member countries had agreed to recognize the use of tests and will continue to work together to create a standard for testing and quarantine requirements.
Until European countries unilaterally implement the new measures, the existing situation for intra-European travel is a bit of an ever-evolving puzzle. Here is a brief summary of how some countries are approaching it as of October 14:
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This is far from an exhaustive list, but it serves as an example of just how different all the rules and regulations have been within Europe. It remains vital that travelers crossing borders within Europe are up to date on the latest coronavirus-related travel restrictions because they are constantly changing.
It is not yet clear exactly when the new system will go into effect.
This story was originally published on September 21, 2020. It has been updated on October 14, 2020, to include current information. The Associated Press contributed reporting.
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