Since the start of the pandemic, travel within the European Union has been a complicated mix of restrictions and protocols. The bloc of countries has operated on a patchwork model, with each country having its own rules and travel bubbles. For example, currently, travelers from the UK can enter France without restrictions, but those going from France to the UK had to quarantine for 14 days. Anyone arriving in Italy from the EU is required to fill out a health form, unless they’re coming from Belgium, France, the UK, Netherlands, Czech Republic, or Spain, in which case they need a negative COVID-19 test instead. There has been no uniform set of rules for the 27 member countries, which has proven confusing and frustrating.

But, that’s about to change. EU countries just approved a set of guidelines this week designed to create a more cohesive approach to handling travel during the pandemic. The new criteria includes rules surrounding COVID-19 cases, test positivity rates, and reporting.

  • Member states should not be restricting travel from other countries with fewer than 50 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people over the last 14 days
  • They should not restrict travel from countries with test positivity rates of less than three percent, as long as weekly testing exceeds 250 tests per 100,000 people
  • Member countries must supply the European Center of Disease Prevention and Control (ECDPC) with their COVID-19 case and testing data on a weekly basis

The ECDPC will use this data to produce a color-coded map, published regularly on the Re-open EU website, that shows up-to-date information about travel restrictions across Europe. The scale ranges from green (lowest positivity rate) to red (highest), and a new version of the map will be released each week.

Despite the new criteria, member countries aren’t beholden to it, and are still free to impose their own restrictions.