A European Affairs Ministers of a Council Recommendation on travel restrictions has been branded a failure by the aviation industry.

The guidance to Member States falls far short of what it was supposed to deliver: encouraging a restart of travel through effective coordination and proportionate, predictable, and non-discriminatory measures.

Specifically, the Recommendation:

  • does not propose to replace quarantines by testing, effectively keeping borders closed
  • leaves the door open for Member States to refuse entry to citizens travelling from other Member States and also fails to harmonize the rules applicable for cross-border and domestic travel
  • conflicts with the principle of the EC Communication of 13 May that travel restrictions should be lifted between areas that have “sufficiently similar” epidemiological situations
  • ignores the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control opinion that travel restrictions—and in particular quarantines—are of “questionable effectiveness” when community transmission is ongoing
  • does not create a sufficient window of certainty for travelers, as Member States have only committed to publishing information on new measures 24 hours prior to their entry into force.

The inability of the Council to go beyond shallow coordination and establish a truly harmonized and workable framework is now beyond any doubt.

Aviation bodies ACI EUROPE, Airlines for Europe (A4E), and IATA have strongly pushed for a common pre-departure COVID-19 testing framework to replace quarantines for passengers travelling from high-risk areas. Expectations for an effective solution now rest with the European Commission, which has charged the European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control with the development of an EU Testing Protocol for Travel.

ACI EUROPE, IATA and A4E support the Testing Protocol initiative, which presents an opportunity to address the risk of importation of cases from high-risk areas to low-risk areas far more effectively than quarantine, and end the disastrous patchwork of responses between individual Member States.

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