EU agrees on new curbs for coronavirus


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EU ambassadors approved a new map of coronavirus viruses across the block on Friday, allowing authorities to impose stricter regional travel restrictions.

The European Commission is still against a blanket trip ban or close national borders throughout the European Union, despite some members seeking tougher measures.

But Brussels wants to “strongly discourage non-essential travel” and the map from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control is part of this work.

The Commission recommended adding a new category of “dark red” zones to the weekly European Health Map published.

These are regions where authorities have detected 500 or more COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the previous two weeks.

The test and quarantine rules would restrict travel to and from these areas, even for travel considered “necessary” under current guidelines.

Some exemptions are granted for residents of border areas and transport workers.

According to a preliminary ECDC map that AFP saw on Thursday, 14 out of 27 EU countries have at least one region classified as “dark red”.

The Commission is trying to coordinate Member States’ efforts to avoid a recurrence of the failure in May last year, when capped border closures led to travel and transport chaos.

But Portugal, which holds the rotating EU presidency of the EU, told the ambassadors’ meeting that further national measures were still possible, according to diplomats.

Portugal, where the epidemic is exploding, decided on Thursday to ban unnecessary travel abroad for two weeks.

Belgium had taken the same measure from Wednesday, with a ban until March 1, and Germany is considering a drastic reduction in air traffic with countries it considers to be in danger.

The European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, was asked on Friday about the measures taken by his home country, Belgium.

He warned that its general scope, without taking into account the state of health in the region of origin or destination, did not comply with the Commission’s recommendations.

“We prefer that this not be extended and especially that if action is taken, they are better integrated into the recommendations,” he told broadcaster RTBF.

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