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European Commission Says Countries Should Lift UK Flight Ban and Test Passengers Instead

European Commission Says Countries Should Lift UK Flight Ban and Test Passengers Instead

The European Commission has issued emergency guidance telling member countries like Germany, France and Italy to lift hastily enforced travel bans on flights, trains and cars from the United Kingdom after a new, highly transmissible variant of the COVID-19 virus was blamed for a surge in new infections in London and other parts of England.

The British capital and many parts of the South East were plunged into a renewed lockdown on Saturday night after Prime Minister Boris Johnson effectively cancelled Christmas in a desperate attempt to bring the virus under control. The Netherlands was first to react to the threat posed by the new variant and shut its borders to the UK early on Sunday morning.

After British Health Secretary Matt Hancock described the variant as “out of control” on national television a slew of countries quickly followed suit and banned (albeit temporarily) all flights from the UK pending further information about the strain of Coronavirus which is up to 70 per cent more infectious than previous variants.

But now the European Commission says it member states should immediately reconsider and lift total flight bans as soon as possible. Instead, countries should discourage all but the most essential travel between the UK and Europe, and introduce mandatory testing for those passengers who are eligible to travel.

“Blanket travel bans should not prevent thousands of EU and UK citizens from returning to their homes,” commented Europe’s Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders.

Enshrining the right of free movement, the European Commission told its member states that they cannot effectively leave their citizens stranded in a foriegn country. European citizens travelling home from the UK or Brits who live in Europe should be allowed to travel freely, the commission announced on Monday.

European countries are still free, however, to mandate pre-departure or post-arrival testing, as well as quarantine restrictions in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Essential workers such as healthcare staff can also be made to take a test but should not be subjected to self-isolation rules the commission decided. Additionally, transport staff such as pilots and flight attendants shouldn’t be subjected to any kind of test or quarantine, while transit passengers should also be faciliated through routine testing.

As of January 1, 2021, British citizens may be banned from entering Europe because of the country’s high-infection rate. The European Council has still not decided whether an exemption should be granted.

Even if an exemption isn’t granted, EU citizens living in the UK should still be allowed to travel freely, giving a renewed impetus for travel bans to be lifted as soon as possible.

We’ll update this article if and when countries react to the recommendations of the European Commission.

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