One of the basic tenets of being in the EU/Schengen area is the unrestricted access of EU residents and their ability to move freely between member states. However, the EU has invoked a measure for the temporary reintroduction of border controls between member states, due to the high infection rates of Covid-19 and it is also advocating the testing of arrivals from highly infected areas before departure, within the EU.
Spanish and Portuguese land border controls now in place
From 31 January (until 10 February) Spain and Portugal will now bring in controls across the land border they share, a decision announced by Spain’s Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska. People can only cross between the two countries at designated border controls and at specific times of the day, i.e. between 8am and 10am or 7pm and 9pm, mostly to allow cross-border workers to travel. The latter are one part of a very small group of people who can now travel across, including residents, diplomats and humanitarian workers.
Spain has registered a total of 2,830,478 Covid-19 cases with 58,310 deaths, while in Portugal, 720,510 people have tested positive and 12,482 persons have died.
Italian police checking papers for French heading over the border
On Saturday, the prime minister Jean Castex banned anyone arriving from outside the EU for non-essential travel, as France tries to avoid heading into a third national lockdown. Anyone arriving into France must have proof of a negative Covid-19 test result taken no more than 72 hours prior; travelers from outside the EU must also quarantine. France has registered 3,053,617 cases of Covid-19 infections with 73,049 deaths.
However, with all bars and restaurants shut in France and many open across the border in Italy, any locals who have been trying to cross for the pizza and pasta, have come up against Italian police, checking for the right paperwork and asking for negative PCR tests.
Testing should now happen for travel within EU
Since 13 October 2020, the EU has used a color-coded traffic light system to determine where travel should be allowed in Europe. For the most part, member states have been asking that all arrivals from red and yellow areas should take a test upon arrival and quarantine (individual countries invoke different rules), although the overall view has been that only essential travel should be undertaken.
In a press briefing on 1 February, the EU agreed to a new dark red color being added to the color-coded map—for any area which has a 14-day cumulative Covid-19 case notification rate of 500 per 100 000 people or more.
It is now advocating that any travelers arriving into other EU areas from dark red areas should:
- undergo a test for Covid-19 infection prior to arrival; and
- undergo quarantine/self-isolation upon arrival.
Countries are free to implement these rules as they see fit and could also impose similar measures “to areas with a high prevalence of variants of concern.”