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COVID-19

EU says blanket UK travel ban should end to allow people to return home

The European Commission has recommended countries lift the blanket transport ban on the UK to allow residents to return home and for essential travel. Each country will now have to decide whether to follow the recommendation.

EU says blanket UK travel ban should end to allow people to return home
Photo: AFP

The Commission's recommendation is that people heading to their country of residence should be allowed to travel, along with EU citizens heading home and essential freight traffic.

“While it is important to take swift temporary precautionary action to limit the further spread of the new strain of the virus and all non-essential travel to and from the UK should be discouraged, essential travel and transit of passengers should be facilitated,” the statement said.

“Flight and train bans should be discontinued given the need to ensure essential travel and avoid supply chain disruptions,” it added.

Travel from the UK to the EU will likely be dependent on travellers taking a Covid-19 test.

Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, said: “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.

“At the same time, blanket travel bans should not prevent thousands of EU and UK citizens from returning to their homes. While precautions are needed to contain the spread of the new coronavirus variant, with today's Recommendation, we therefore ensure that the restrictions are coordinated and provide for the necessary exemptions for citizens and residents returning home and other essential travellers.”

The recommendations will be put to EU ambassadors later on Tuesday.

The Commission can only make recommendations to EU countries but member states are in control of decisions regarding their borders.

Countries like France and Germany, which had been pushing for a Europe-wide solution, seem likely to go along with the recommendations, while others such as Italy which had already put in place a ban until January 6th may decide to keep their existing restrictions in place.

If adopted it would mean the following people could travel 

  • Hauliers bringing freight traffic
  • EU or Schengen zone nationals currently in the UK
  • Non-EU nationals who are currently in the UK but have their permanent residence in an EU or Schengen zone country.

'Tests or quarantine'

It was unclear what evidence will be needed to prove residency.

“However, 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,” the Commission statement said.

“Transit of passengers, especially for essential travel, should be facilitated without quarantine. A test can be required, but authorities need to inform about such requirement in advance or offer testing during the journey.”

The Commission's statement also noted that “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, the UK will be subject to Council Recommendation on the temporary restriction on non-essential travel into the EU.”

 

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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