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COVID-19

EU urges governments to scrap travel restrictions for couples

The EU Commission has called on governments to allow couples separated by coronavirus travel restrictions to reunite, following five months of separation for many in cross-border relationships.

EU urges governments to scrap travel restrictions for couples
Many cross-border couples have been kept apart by the pandemic for nearly half a year. File photo: Văn Thắng/Pexels

“During the last meeting, yesterday, we raised an issue directly affecting many people, namely excluding unmarried partners of European citizens and residents from the travel restriction into the EU,” said a spokesperson for the commission, Adalbert Jahnz, at a press conference.  

“We will continue to call on all member states to allow the entry of people in duly attested relationships with European citizens and residents without delay.”

Currently, it's up to each country to decide on exemptions to the EU entry ban, and the spokesperson said the commission had repeatedly encouraged member states to exempt unmarried partners of citizens and residents.

But only seven EU/EEA countries (Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland), have exempted unmarried partners from the ban, with most only allowing spouses to enter the country from outside the EU.

In Sweden, the rules are complex, with the government saying unmarried partners of Swedish citizens and residents can enter the country, but only if they can prove they've met in person and that they intend to marry or enter a common-law relationship with their partner.

Across the world, long-distance couples have campaigned under the slogans #LoveIsNotTourism and #LoveIsEssential, calling on governments to make allowances for those in serious relationships.

Member comments

  1. Let’s hope legislators and officials move quickly to take positive actions towards remediating this matter.

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COVID-19

Health experts advise end of masks on public transport in Spain

Spanish health experts have advised the government that the use of masks should no longer be obligatory on public transport, but no concrete date has yet been set.

Health experts advise end of masks on public transport in Spain

Health experts who advise the Spanish Ministry of Health have said that masks should no longer be mandatory on public transport, but with the caveat that the government should first wait and observe the epidemiological situation in China, which has experienced a surge in case numbers since it abandoned its strict ‘Zero Covid’ strategy at the end of 2022, following widespread civil unrest.

The use of masks on public transport has now been the norm in Spain for almost three years, since the start of the pandemic. 

Speaking to Ser Canarias, Darias said: “We are getting closer and closer [to the end of having to wear a mask], but we will have to see how things evolve in order to make that decision; obviously the epidemiological situation is getting better and better, but we have to see how the issue of China evolves”. 

Reports in the Spanish press suggest some kind of agreement was made during a meeting between the government and the experts in December that masks would no longer be compulsory after assessing the situation in China, however, there is still no fixed date.

Back in October 2022, Spain’s ‘Emergency Unit’ suggested that mask rules would not be reviewed until March 2023 at the earliest, but more recently it said that it does not seem necessary to wait for March to remove the mask rule. 

According to recent Ministry of Health figures, just 2.79 percent of hospital beds in Spain are taken up by Covid-19 patients.

READ ALSO: Face masks to remain mandatory on public transport in Spain until March 2023

The use of masks indoors in Spain ceased to be mandatory on April 20th, 2022, after almost two years, however, they have remained mandatory in hospitals, pharmacies and, crucially, also on buses, metro, trains, planes and taxis.

While the mask rules have been strictly enforced in some places in Spain such as Seville and Valencia, in other cities such as Barcelona, many people refuse to wear them, despite the regulations still officially being in place. 

READ ALSO: Spain now requires Covid certificates for arrivals from China

In China, figures suggest that almost 60,000 people have died as a result of Covid-19 in a single month amid the spike in cases following the end of the country’s draconian restrictions. In response, Spain reintroduced health control checks for travellers arriving from China. 

It seems that Darias and the Spanish government are waiting to see how the situation plays out in China first, but all the indications and expert advice seems to suggest that masks will no longer be mandatory in public transport sometime very soon. 

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