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EU Recommendation on a coordinated approach to travel measures

Frequently Asked Questions

1.       What did the EU decide about international travel?

On 16 October, the European Council welcomed the progress achieved so far on overall coordination at EU level against COVID-19, including the recommendation on a coordinated approach to the restriction of free movement. They called on the Council, the Commission and the Member States to continue the overall coordination effort based on the best available science, notably regarding quarantine regulations, cross-border contact tracing, testing strategies, the joint assessment of testing methods, the mutual recognition of tests, and the temporary restriction on non-essential travel into the EU. The EU leaders agreed to keep this under regular review.

2.       What is the “EU Traffic Lights System”?

This ‘traffic lights’ approach provides for regions across the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) to be categorised as green, orange, red or grey, on the basis of the risk levels associated with COVID-19. A single map will be published each week by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), based on agreed criteria including the 14-day cumulative incidence rate, testing rates and testing positivity rates. The EU approach recommends that there be no restrictions on travellers from green regions. Each Member State will decide what restrictions or requirements it applies for travellers from red, orange and grey regions. Information about restrictions currently applied by Member States is available via the Department’s travel advice pages for those countries.

 3.       What countries are included in the new EU approach?

The EU Recommendation applies to all EU countries. The map will also include Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. For as long as the ECDC continues to include data for the UK, arrivals from Great Britain will also be subject to the same traffic light categorisation and restrictions as for EU countries.

 4.       Will travel to or from Northern Ireland be affected?

There will continue to be no restrictions on travel within the island of Ireland. If you live in Northern Ireland, please consult the latest public health guidelines in Northern Ireland.

 5.       How many regions are there?

Many countries across Europe have a large number of internal regions. Information on sub-national regions across Europe, and the COVID-19 risk level currently associated with each region, is available here.

 6.       Will the colours be by region or country?

The colours and associated COVID-19 risk levels will be assigned to sub-national regions within each country. The system will not classify entire countries.

 7.       What are the criteria for deciding whether a region is red, orange, or green?

The ECDC criteria is based on a three strand approach. These are:

·       The ‘14-day cumulative coronavirus case notification rate', which is the total number of newly notified coronavirus cases per 100 000 people in the last 14 days;

 ·       The ‘test positivity rate', which is the percentage of positive tests for coronavirus infection during the last week;

 ·       The ‘testing rate', which is the number of tests for coronavirus infection per 100000 people during the last week.

Restrictions imposed on entry to a country are based on the location of the passenger during the 14 days prior to arrival.

 8.       What will I need to do if I return to Ireland from a red / orange / green region?

With effect from 22 October, passengers travelling to Ireland from ‘green’ regions are not requested to restrict their movements on arrival. Requirements for those entering the State from orange, red or grey regions within the EU ‘traffic lights’ system, or from countries outside the EU / EEA are available on the websites of the Irish Government or the Health Service Executive.

 9.       What does grey mean?

A region will be assigned a grey colour where insufficient data has been made available to the ECDC. Arrivals from grey regions will be face the same restrictions and guidelines as arrivals from red regions.

 10.    Why was the EU Recommendation adopted?

The pandemic has resulted in a wide range of travel restrictions between countries across Europe and created uncertainty for the public. It is hoped that the new system will bring greater consistency and transparency in relation to travel within Europe.

 11.    What are the immediate implications for Irish citizens?

Individuals arriving in Ireland from ‘green’ regions will not be requested to restrict their movements on arrival in Ireland. This request will also not apply to travellers from non-green regions with an essential need or function. The EU Recommendation provides a list of such travellers which are exempt from restrictions here. The ECDC map will also help you take account of the latest COVID-19 risk levels if you are considering planning to a region. The requirements for Irish citizens arriving in other jurisdictions in the EU/EEA will also be determined by the status of Irish regions on the ECDC map.

 12.    Why are there still different restrictions across Europe?

Under the coordinated EU/EEA approach, each Member State decides what restrictions it applies to arrivals from non-green regions. It is important to consult the latest information regarding requirements in your destination before your trip. This information is available via the Department’s Travel Advice.

 13.    Will I face any restrictions in Ireland if I transit through a non-green region on my way to Ireland from a green region?

Travel restrictions will not apply to individuals who have only transited through a non-green region (e.g. for immediate access to an airport).

 14.    Does the coding relate to where I will be staying or which airport I will fly back from?  

Restrictions imposed on entry to a country are based on the location of the passenger during the 14 days prior to arrival.  You should check the colour coding in the region in which you spend time during your trip. Travel restrictions will not apply to individuals who have only transited through a non-green region e.g. for immediate access to an airport.

 15.    If I stay in a red region but travel to Ireland from an airport in a green region, what requirements will I face in Ireland?

The request to restrict your movements on arrival in Ireland is based on the location of the passenger during the 14 days prior to arrival. Transiting through a green region airport will not exempt a passenger from the request to restrict their movements if they have spent time in a red region during the previous 14 days. Further information about requirements on arrival in Ireland is available on the websites of the Irish Government and the Health Service Executive.     

 16.    Do I have to quarantine if I cross a border within Europe?

If you are only transiting through a country, it is not necessary to quarantine. If you are travelling to the country from a green region, there will also be no need to quarantine. However, if you are travelling from a non-green region and staying on in the country in question, then you are advised to check that country’s requirements for international passengers arriving from non-green regions.

 17.    Where can I get tested? Where can I get information about testing?

Please contact the Health Service Executive (HSE) for questions in relation to COVID-19 testing.

 18.    How long will this system be in operation?

While the system is not permanent, it is expected to be in place for some time. The medium-term situation in Europe remains uncertain and it is hoped that the new system will bring greater consistency and transparency in relation to travel within Europe.

 19.    I need to travel to the USA – what does this system mean for me?

At present, arrivals from the USA will be treated on the same basis as arrivals from red or grey regions. This will be kept under review.

 20.    I need to travel to a red region for urgent family/medical/business reasons. Can I travel there?

In line with the EU Recommendation, certain categories of travellers are exempt from restrictions. This includes persons travelling for imperative family or business reasons. A list of these exemptions is available here. It is important to check what guidelines and requirements are in place in your destination.

 21.    I need to travel to a European overseas territory (e.g. Caribbean/Pacific) – are these regions included? Can I travel there?

Where the data is available to facilitate a risk assessment and colour-coding by the ECDC, then associated measures will apply. Regions with insufficient data will be coloured grey. Arrivals in Ireland from grey regions will face the same requirements and guidelines as arrivals from red regions.

 22.    The Reopen Europa website says that restrictions on travel should be lifted for travel from some countries outside Europe, such as Australia. Can I travel to Ireland from there without restrictions?

The Department of Foreign Affairs continues to advise against all non-essential travel to countries outside the EU/EEA. All passengers arriving in Ireland from outside the EU/EEA will face the same requirements as passengers arriving from red regions.

 23.    If some of my holiday is in an orange or red region and I spend the last week in a green region, what requirements will I face on return to Ireland?

The request to restrict your movements on arrival in Ireland is based on the location of the passenger during the 14 days prior to arrival. If you have spent time in an orange/red/grey region (excluding for transit purposes) during the 14 days prior to your arrival in Ireland, you will face the same requirements as a passenger arriving in Ireland directly from that region.