EU health authority advises abolishing color-coded travel card rules

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The European Union’s health authority is proposing a revision of the COVID-19 rules that could make travel easier for vaccinated people and could abolish a color-coded system that restricts travel to and from areas with high infection rates. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) presented its non-binding proposal at meetings of EU health experts this week, EU diplomats said as part of a discussion on how to further open travel as vaccination rates rise.

The ECDC, which has an advisory role, has color-coded EU regions from green to yellow to red according to their frequency of COVID-19 notifications and tests and the percentage of positive tests. The EU has roughly coordinated travel restrictions depending on the color.

However, in its report, the ECDC pointed out the weakness of this traffic light system, including various test systems in EU countries that hampered statistical comparisons. Increased vaccination intake must also be taken into account. In the current situation, the travel restrictions would not have a material impact on reducing transfers, hospital stays or deaths. Previous measures had not stopped the spread of new variants either.

“ECDC proposes to stop using 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 on Reuters.

EU diplomats say the agency was hired by the European Commission to deal with the issue. The ECDC presentation stated that she followed a request from the Commission. ECDC indicated a number of options for change, including using vaccine intake as an indicator that could promote vaccination. Around 74% of adults in the EU are now fully vaccinated and almost 80% have received at least one dose of vaccine.

The agency has not firmly committed itself to one option, but said the aim is to assess a person’s risk of contagion and that their current system mainly applies to those who have not been vaccinated. Neither the Commission nor the ECDC responded promptly to requests for comments.

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