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COVID-19

Which countries in Europe would be on the EU’s list of ‘dark red zones’ for Covid-19?

The EU has proposed imposing extra travel restrictions on parts of Europe with very high rates of Covid-19 infections, but which countries would currently be included on the list?

Which countries in Europe would be on the EU's list of 'dark red zones' for Covid-19?
AFP

With Covid-19 infection rates rising around Europe the EU has been under pressure to introduce coordinated travel restrictions for those moving within the EU.

Last week The Local reported the announcement by EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen regarding the proposal to classify parts of Europe with high infection rates as “dark red zones”.

“People travelling from dark red zones could be required to do a test before departure, as well as to undergo quarantine after arrival. This is within the European Union,” she said.

According to the commission, the new dark red category is to be introduced to indicate “areas where the virus is circulating at very high levels, including because of more infectious variants of concern”.

The official map has not yet been published but will be created by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

The EU executive is against border closures and instead has suggested tightening the restrictions in regions with an incidence rate of more than 500 infections per 100,000 inhabitants.

“The common map and a common approach to proportionate, non-discriminatory restrictions must still guide our efforts. What we need now in view of the new variants is even more coordination and a joint European effort to discourage non-essential travel. Border closures will not help, common measures will,” said Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders.

READ ALSO: These are the current travel restrictions in place around Europe

As of Monday January 25th, Portugal, Spain, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia, Sweden, Slovakia, Estonia, Cyprus, the Netherlands and Malta have all reported more than 500 infections per 100,000 inhabitants during the last two weeks, EU Observer reports.

However by Tuesday January 26th Sweden's incidence rate had dropped below the threshold to 479/ 100,000.

Spain's current infection rate as of Tuesday January 26th was an average of 885/100,000 inhabitants over a 14 day period but in some regions the infection rate had risen to 1,400/100,000.

But within certain countries not on that list above, such as Italy and France, there are regions where the infection rates are pushing towards are even over the 500/100,000 threshold set by the Commission.

As well as the dark red zones European countries would also be classified into green, orange, red and grey areas, as they are already in maps produced by the ECDC.

The Commission is also proposing additional safety measures for the EU's external borders.

Travel into the EU is heavily restricted but essential trips are allowed. The Commission proposes that all travellers should undergo testing before departure as well be subject to a period in self-isolation of up to 14 days and further testing.

Additionally international travellers would be required to complete and submit a “passenger-locator” form, used by member states for contact tracing.

Certain groups, such as cross-border workers, transport staff, or people living in border regions, should be exempt from some restrictions, the commission added.

The EU Commission can only make recommendations and it is up to the EU council whether to approve them. 

But given borders are governed at a national level many countries within the EU and Schengen area have already taken action to impose these kind of measures.

The question of imposing restrictions on internal borders to fight the spread of more contagious Covid-19 variants has risen to the fore in recent days, pushed mainly by concerns raised by Germany and France.

Germany had proposed temporary and limited bans on all passenger traffic from non-EU countries if necessary, whilst France on Thursday night announced that anyone entering France by air or sea from within the EU must present a negative Covid-19 test. Hauliers and cross-border workers are exempt.

Border restrictions are a matter for individual member states but France and Germany plus EU officials in Brussels have been pushing for a coordinated response after the travel chaos that occurred during the first wave of the pandemic in spring 2020.

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TRAVEL

TRAVEL: Tourists in Spain will also be eligible for free train tickets

In welcome news for tourists and travellers in Spain, holidaymakers will be eligible to take advantage of Spain's 100% discounts on train travel later in the year.

TRAVEL: Tourists in Spain will also be eligible for free train tickets

Tourists will be eligible for Spain’s free train ticket scheme that will be phased in later on this year, as confirmed to the Spanish press by sources in Spain’s Ministry of Transport this week.

“If a foreign tourist is a frequent user of the [train] network, he can make use of this subscription. If they want to complete the trips, they will not be asked for any type of card,” the source said.

Additionally, in further news of particular interest for British and American travellers, no differentiation will be made between tourists nor between EU and non-EU nationals for the discounts. Free train travel will be available to all tourists, regardless of where they’re from.

It is hoped that the free train travel will entice more visitors to Spain and continue the sector’s post-pandemic recovery, which for the first six months of the year exceeded pre-pandemic (2019) levels by 1.1 percent, according to figures from the association of Spanish tourism companies, Exceltur.

Tourism experts expect Spain to surpass the number of foreign visitors in the last four months of 2019 – over 20 million tourists – despite upwards inflationary pressures on the cost of flights and accommodation.

But like everything in life, there are terms and conditions. You won’t be able to waltz on any train in Spain for free, and it isn’t year-round.

When?

This eye-catching travel discount will be available from September 1st to December 31st 2022, during which multi-journey train tickets on the trains outlined below will be free.

Free train travel

The 100 percent discount scheme, which will cost public coffers a reported €200 million, will only be valid on certain lines and comes amid a series of measures put in place by the government to try and ease the pain of rising inflation and prices, but also to lower pressures on fuel following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and ensuing energy crisis. 

READ ALSO: How much can you save on public transport in Spain with the new state discount?

“The government will subsidise 100 percent of the public service of commuter trains operated by Renfe. We hope that the autonomous communities can complement this enormous effort made by the Spanish government,” Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said when announcing the scheme in the Spanish Congress.

But which trains will be free, when, and how can you take advantage of them?

Which trains are free?

Unfortunately, the Spanish government has not given everyone in Spain free train travel on every route and on every type of train.

There are rules.

Simply put, local and commuter trains will be free. Cercanías, Rodalies (Catalonia), and Media Distance (local and medium-distance journeys) will be 100 percent free of charge.

The policy is aimed at encouraging the use of trains as opposed to other fossil fuel intensive forms of transport, and it’s valid for journeys up to 300km.

That in mind, trips on long-distance or high-speed trains, such as AVE and Alvia, are not included in the plan.

Neither will the routes in Avlo, the low-cost AVE option established in 2021, nor the medium and high-speed Avants.

Avlo and Avants will instead have a 50 percent discount on the original price, as outlined by the government in June.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer free train trips: when, where and how?

The Spanish government are yet to announce in detail how exactly the discounts will work, or how to apply for them.

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