EU health agency advises removing travel card from traffic lights

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A passenger wearing a face mask walks through Fiumicino airport on the day EU governments agreed to a “safe list” of 14 countries they will allow non-essential travel to from July, to the following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) epidemic, in Rome, Italy, June 30, 2020. REUTERS / Guglielmo Mangiapane

BRUSSELS, October 6 (Reuters) – The European Union’s public health agency is proposing a revision of COVID-19 rules that could make it easier for vaccinated people to travel and remove a color-coded system that restricts travel to and from areas with a high level of infection.

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) made its non-binding proposal at meetings of EU health specialists this week, EU diplomats said, as part of a discussion on how to open up travel more as vaccination rates rise.

The ECDC, which has an advisory role, has color-coded regions of the EU ranging from green to yellow and red based on their COVID-19 notification and testing rates and their percentage of positive tests. The EU has largely adapted travel restrictions based on color.

However, in its report, the ECDC highlighted the weakness of this traffic light system, including different test systems in EU countries which hampered statistical comparisons. The increase in the vaccination rate should also be taken into account.

In the current situation, he said, the travel restrictions have not had a significant impact on reducing transmissions, hospitalizations or deaths. Previous measures had also not stopped the spread of new variants.

“ECDC proposes to consider discontinuing use of the combined indicator due to its limited public health value and instead focus on promoting vaccination among travelers,” the agency said. in a Powerpoint presentation seen by Reuters.

EU diplomats said the agency had been tasked by the European Commission to look into the matter. The ECDC presentation indicates that it followed a request from the Commission.

ECDC proposed a number of options for change, including the use of vaccination as an indicator, which could encourage inoculations. Around 74% of adults in the EU are now fully vaccinated and almost 80% have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The agency did not firmly decide on an option, but said the goal was to assess a person’s risk of infection and that its current system mainly applied to unvaccinated people.

Neither the Commission nor the ECDC immediately responded to requests for comment.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, editing by William Maclean

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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