From June 15th, many EU Member States will lift the restrictions on its borders. EU Schengen countries open borders to and from the European Union, the United Kingdom and the four non-EU Schengen countries (Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway). It is worth reminding that each country decides independently on whether or not to reopen its borders.
The COVID-19 outbreak is having a major impact on transport and connectivity in the EU. Measures to contain the Coronavirus outbreak have resulted in a dramatic reduction in transport activity, especially in passenger transport. Freight flows have been less affected. Thanks to collective EU efforts, freight continues to move, although there has been a reduction due to declining economic activity and disruption of supply chains.
The Commission has issued guidance on restrictions on non-essential travel and put forward measures specifically for transport, including guidelines for border management measures, on the implementation of Green Lanes for freight transport, on facilitating air cargo operations, and on seafarers, passengers and other persons on board ships.
Travel rules – Belgium open borders
For example, travelling to Belgium will be authorized, while travelling to other EU countries from Belgium will remain subject to conditions set by each of them. It is advisable to inform oneself on these conditions before undertaking travel of any kind. The conditions for travel outside of Europe must still be laid down taking into account the evolution of the epidemiological situation as well as discussions at the European level. It is not possible to provide more detailed information at this time.
14-day home quarantine
Belgium is not opposed to the departure from Europe of members of staff of the diplomatic missions or their family members, but may impose restrictions on their return to Belgium based on the protection of public health. The national rules and additional measures in force in the country of destination must also be respected. Returning from non-essential travel outside of Europe is not recommended. If the return (from a non-essential travel) of a holder of a function is essential, he or she must observe a 14-day home quarantine during which teleworking is permitted.
In Belgium, wearing a protection covering the mouth and nose is compulsory in public transport, airports and schools for anyone from 12 years old. This face mask is recommended in all other public places or places where large numbers of people are concentrated or when the social distancing measures cannot be applied. Given the circumstances, it is nonetheless advised, in general, to observe the measures officially announced and to demonstrate common sense. Everyone has the individual and collective responsibility to respect these measures.
What are the travel restrictions in the European Union?
Travel has been shown to facilitate the spread of COVID-19 from affected to unaffected areas. Travel and trade restrictions during a public health event of international concern (PHEIC) are regulated under the International Health Regulations (IHR).
Can EU open borders?
On 16 March, in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the European Union leaders agreed to a temporary restriction on non-essential travel from third countries into the EU area by closing its borders for the next 30 days staring on 17 March 2020. On 8 April, the Commission invited Member States and non-EU Schengen countries to extend the temporary restrictions on non-essential travel to the EU until 15 May. The temporary travel restriction foresees exemptions for nationals of all EU Member States and Schengen Associated States (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland; whilst UK nationals are still to be treated in the same way as EU citizens until end 2020), for the purposes of returning to their homes. Exceptions are also foreseen for travellers with an essential function or need.
In addition, most EU countries have also applied national borders closure and/or border checks and travel and transport restrictions or bans within their national borders and between different regions as a measure to slow the spread. See the measures implemented by EU Member States.
Mobility measures implemented or announced by Member States
Many EU countries have also encouraged their citizens to return home (with recommendations for 14 days self-quarantine upon return) but also recommended that travellers avoid non-essential travels to areas with transmission of COVID-19.
What precautions should I take if I need to travel?
Travellers should adhere to strict hygiene measures, wash hands with soap and water regularly, and/or use alcohol-based hand sanitisers. Touching the face with unwashed hands should be avoided. Travellers should avoid contact with sick persons, in particular those with respiratory symptoms and fever. It should be emphasised that older people and those with underlying health conditions should take these precautionary measures very seriously. Travellers who develop any symptoms during or after travel should self-isolate; those developing acute respiratory symptoms within 14 days upon return should be advised to seek immediate medical advice, ideally by phone first to their national healthcare provider.
What is the risk of infection when travelling by plane?
The risk of being infected on an airplane cannot be excluded, but is currently considered to be low for an individual traveller. The risk of being infected in an airport is similar to that of any other place where many people gather. If it is established that a COVID-19 case has been on an airplane, other passengers who were at risk (as defined by how near they were seated to the infected passenger) will be contacted by public health authorities. Should you have questions about a flight you have taken, please contact your local health authority for advice.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has recommended measures to be taken by national authorities, such as thorough disinfecting and cleaning of aircraft after each flight serving high-risk destinations.
EASA also recommended that airlines operating on all routes step up the frequency of cleaning, disinfect as a preventative measure and ensure full disinfection of any aircraft which has carried a passenger who was suspected or confirmed as being infected with COVID-19. Airport operators should similarly disinfect terminals regularly.
Why are people not being checked for COVID-19 at the airport when arriving from areas of local or community transmission?
There is evidence that checking people at the airport by reading their skin temperature (known as entry screening) is not very effective in preventing the spread of the virus, especially when people do not have symptoms. It is generally considered more useful to provide those arriving at airports with clear information explaining what to do if they develop symptoms after arrival.
Open Borders – Restoring transport services across the EU
The travel restriction, as well as the invitation to prolong it until 30 June, applies to all Schengen Member States including Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania and the 4 Schengen Associated States: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. 30 countries in total. All these countries implement it through national law.
After 30 June, the restriction should be lifted for countries selected together by Member States, based on a set of principles and objective criteria including the health situation, the ability to apply containment measures during travel, and reciprocity considerations, taking into account data from relevant sources such as ECDC and WHO.
Balkans Open Borders
The Commission also recommends to lift travel restrictions for Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia as of 1 July, given that their epidemiological situation is similar or better than that of the EU.
Safely resuming tourism services to save Summer 2020