The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which is the EU’s official public health agency, has suggested that the COVID-19 rules and restrictions should be amended since the current colour-coded system limits the freedom of movement.
The system has been in place since October of last year when the EU Member States adopted a Council Recommendation on a coordinated approach to restrictions regarding the freedom of movement. The recommendation set out four main areas where EU countries would coordinate their efforts, which were as follows:
- Common mapping system
- Common criteria for entry restrictions
- Clarity on the application of rules for travellers from high-risk countries
- Clear and timely information
Now, the ECDC has proposed to make changes regarding the system and ease the travel rules for vaccinated travellers this week at meetings of EU health specialists, during which they discussed how to open up safely as more people get vaccinated.
In line with the advice from the agency, if such a system gets dropped, travellers who have been fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 disease would no longer be limited from taking trips to and from areas that have identified high infection rates, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.
Currently, ECDC classifies the EU countries in different coloured lists – green, yellow, red, dark red, and grey – depending on the COVID-19 infection rates. In addition, the agency also makes a distinction between the countries based on their vaccination rate, testing, and the percentage of positive tests.
According to Reuters, ECDC has emphasised that the traffic light system has its downsides since each country has a different testing system, and the vaccination rates differ from one another.
In addition, the same reported that taking into account the current situation that EU countries are in, keeping in place travel restrictions did not have a notable impact on lowering the number of deaths, hospitalisations, or even the spread of new COVID-19 strains.
“ECDC proposes to consider discontinuing the use of the combined indicator due to the limited public health value and focus instead on promoting vaccination among travellers,” the EU health agency said in a presentation that was seen by Reuters.
Apart from advising changes that would help to ease the travel process between the EU Member States, ECDC also made sure to offer some options that are up for change, including the use of data related to the vaccine uptake.
This means that if countries base their system on vaccination status and use vaccine uptake as one of the indicators, more people will be encouraged to get vaccinated since they would then be allowed to travel freely.
Even though ECDC did not give a specific option that EU countries must follow, the agency indirectly claimed that their main aim is to evaluate the rules and requirements that are primarily applied to travellers who have not been vaccinated yet.
Previously, during its latest update, ECDC advised EU countries to facilitate entry rules for travellers from Spain, France, Malta, and Italy since the COVID-19 situation in these countries has significantly improved.