Commission asks EU countries to scrap UK travel ban

Commission asks EU countries to scrap UK travel ban
Credit: Belga

The European Commission is calling on the EU Member States to scrap their blanket ban on travel from the United Kingdom, while still restricting non-essential journeys in a coordinated way.

While non-essential travel should be discouraged, bans on flights and trains should stop to avoid supply chain disruptions, according to a recommendation by the Commission.

"Blanket travel bans should not prevent thousands of EU and UK citizens from returning to their homes," said EU Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders.

“Given the current uncertainties and in light of the precautionary principle, Member States should take coordinated action to discourage non-essential travel between the UK and the EU," he added.

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The European Commission seems to have learned some lessons from the first wave of the virus when it was very reluctant to recommend any travel restrictions until it was too late.

This time, EU and UK citizens travelling to their member state or ountry of residence should be exempted from further temporary restrictions provided that they undergo a test or quarantine.

Travellers with an essential function should be required to undergo a test (RT-PCR test or a rapid antigen test within 72 hours prior to departure), but should not be required to undergo quarantine while exercising this essential function, according to the new recommendation.

As of next year, the UK will become a third country and in principle only essential travel may then take place from the UK, unless the Council will decide otherwise.

The news of a new coronavirus variant that is thought to be more infectious discovered in the UK, prompting many countries to ban passenger and/or freight traffic from the UK to prevent its further spread.

However, while the Commission said it understood that countries must take precautions to control the spread of the new virus variant, it also called for coordinated exemptions for "citizens and residents returning home and other essential travellers."

On Monday 21 and Tuesday 22 December, Belgium imposed an entry ban for travellers coming from the UK – by train, plane or boat – but still allowed freight traffic.

From Wednesday, however, people with the Belgian nationality, people whose main residence is in Belgium, travellers in transit, and people on a "strictly necessary non-postponable journey" are allowed to enter from the UK again.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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