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Migration and Home Affairs
News article22 December 20202 min read

Commission adopts Recommendation on EU coordinated approach to travel and transport in response to new variant of coronavirus in the UK

Following the rapid increase of COVID-19 cases in parts of England, of which a large proportion belongs to a new variant of the virus, the Commission today adopted a Recommendation on a coordinated approach to travel and transport measures.

The Commission recommends to Member States that:

  • They should implement the principles of the October Council Recommendation on a coordinated approach to the restriction of free movement.
  • All non-essential travel to and from the UK should be discouraged until further notice.
  • Union citizens and UK citizens travelling to their Member State or country of residence as well as third-country nationals that enjoy EU free movement rights should be exempted from further temporary restrictions provided that they undergo a test or quarantine.
  • Travellers with an essential function, for instance medical staff, 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.
  • Facilitate transport staff and transit of passengers, especially for essential travel.
  • Cargo flows need to continue uninterrupted, for example to ensure the timely distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
  • The public health authorities of the Member States should increase sequencing efforts to swiftly identify cases of the new variant. They should also immediately identify cases involving persons who travelled to or from the UK in the past 14 days or who are close contacts of confirmed cases in order to ensure the appropriate follow.

Next Steps

Until the end of December, free movement rules still apply to the UK. This means that Member States should not in principle refuse the entry of persons travelling from the UK. After the end of the transition period (31 December 2020), the UK will be subject to Council Recommendation on the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU and the possible lifting of such restriction. Accordingly, in principle only essential travel may take place from the United Kingdom. In order to benefit from an exemption from this general travel restriction, the Council would need to decide to add the United Kingdom to the list of third countries whose residents should not be affected by temporary external borders restriction on non-essential travel to the EU. The list is reviewed regularly by Member States in the Council.

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Publication date
22 December 2020