We’ve heard a lot about fears that about a resurgence in cases across Europe – but concerns are also mounting about a “second wave” of uncoordinated border restrictions within the continent that threatens the free movement of goods and people.
Despite repeated warnings about the dangers of unannounced checks, some countries have imposed new restrictions or demanded that travelers quarantine, recalling the panic border closures after Europe’s first outbreak emerged in Italy in February, blocking traffic and medical equipment.
Beyond the economic impact of uncoordinated measures, experts fear that countries are becoming so used to lowering the gates at their frontiers as they see fit that the future of Europe’s ID-check free travel zone known as the Schengen area is in real peril.
In a letter to national governments – seen by The Associated Press and sent to the 27 EU member countries and Britain – the European Commission warns that:
“While we must ensure that the EU is ready for possible resurgences of Covid-19 cases … we should at the same time avoid a second wave of uncoordinated actions at the internal borders of the EU.”
“The re-establishment of ineffective restrictions and internal border controls must be avoided. Rather, the response should be to have targeted, proportionate and coordinated measures, informed by scientific evidence.”
Belgium – where EU headquarters are based – does not allow travel to some regions in Spain, notably Catalonia in the north, and also has bans on people coming from parts of France, Britain, Bulgaria, Croatia, Lithuania, Romania and Switzerland.
Scandinavian nations are notably quick to react to any rise in infection rates. Denmark’s foreign ministry now has Spain, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Romania and Andorra on its so-called red list. Norway, which is not an EU member but is part of the Schengen area, has not hesitated either.
The use of compulsory Covid-19 testing is also growing. Germany is testing people arriving from high-risk areas, including parts of Bulgaria and Romania, which are EU partners but not members of the Schengen area. Greece and Italy are taking similar steps for the two countries.
The UK has also reintroduced travel restrictions for countries including Spain and Belgium – and according to senior government sources France ‘days away from being added to quarantine list’.
Find out more over on our travel liveblog.