Borders across the European Union will remain open for now, but EU leaders are calling for more travel restrictions, testing and genome sequencing to contain the quick spread of new coronavirus variants.
Governments are facing a tricky balancing act trying to curb infections while protecting free movement.
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, told a media conference on Thursday that all non-essential travel should be strongly discouraged both within a country and across borders.
She said leaders at a video summit to discuss the coronavirus crisis, debated a proposal to introduce new trans-border “dark red zones“ where infection rates are particularly high. Travelers from these areas could be required to undergo tests before their departure and be placed in isolation upon arrival in another location.
Von der Leyen said the commission will make precise recommendations to member states in the coming days.
Meanwhile, some countries are going ahead and introducing new restrictions.
From Sunday, France will require a negative PCR test 72 hours before departure for most European arrivals other than those on essential travel. Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has called for a ‘temporary’ border closure during the upcoming February holiday. And Greece has been pushing the idea of vaccination ‘passports’.
Marc Botenga is a Belgian MEP and is against the Greek proposal for travel certificates.
“I’m not in favour of such a passport right now because it would make a distinction between people on a health status basis and I think that’s extremely dangerous,” he says. “If you start giving people rights on the basis of their health status then privacy-wise and human rights-wise that brings risks. So I wouldn’t do it for the moment.”
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