Travel Tips

What Is The EU Traffic Light System for Travel – My Step By Step Guide

airport travelling with masks

Confused by the new EU traffic light system for travel? My handy guide has all the categories, restrictions and quarantine rules.

On Sunday 8th November, the Irish Government implemented the new EU traffic light system for travel, and following a few amendments, it appears we finally have a workable system in place – well almost!

Eu traffic light system map for travel
The EU traffic light system approach provides for regions across the EU to be categorised as green, orange, red or grey, on the basis of the risk levels associated with COVID-19. A combined indicator map will be published each week by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, (ECDC), based on the 14-day cumulative notification rate, testing rate and testing positivity rates.
 

 

 
The ECDC traffic light system will be updated every Thursday, and the changes applied will come into effect for travel into Ireland from the following Monday. The proposed measures for arrivals from orange, red and green regions, once implemented, will be reviewed fortnightly. It is important to note not all countries are adopting the same timelines  – see more below.

how does the new EU traffic light system for travel work

What’s new in the EU traffic-light system for travel?

The categorisation of ‘regions’ instead of ‘countries’ is a significant one for Ireland, as popular hot spots such as the Canary Islands has seen significantly lower incidence rates than the rest of Spain.
 

 

 
Arrivals from Great Britain are subject to the same traffic light system, and arrivals from other countries not listed in the ECDC report, including USA and Canada, will be treated on the same basis as arrivals from Red / Grey regions, including exemptions from advice to restrict movements.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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The other significant change is in relation to testing. It is possible to reduce quarantine times by obtaining pre or post departure tests, which must be arranged and paid for privately. However, only PCR tests will be acceptable – not the more cost effective antigen tests. See more on this below.
 

 

Countries adopt different approaches within the EU traffic light system

mums weekend away

However, it is important to put this new EU traffic-light system into perspective. At present (19th November) Greenland is the only region that is classified as ‘Green’, while Ireland, the Canary Islands, Finland, Norway and parts of Greece are considered ‘Orange’. Currently many countries require visitors from high risk (red/grey) regions to provide proof of a negative PCR test to be shown on arrival. This must be taken within 72 hours of departure. However, Ireland has a different system in place (see below).
 

 

 
It is also vital that you check the requirements for the country you are travelling to in advance of travel. While Ireland updates its list of countries on the traffic light system every Monday, (taken from the ECDC Map published the previous Thursday), many other countries adopt different methods.

For instance, Spain will update its list every 15 days, giving tourists a window of certainty to make travel bookings, so that the countries will not change classification in two weeks. The first list published by the Spanish health authorities will be on the 23rd of November (and every second week after that) and this list will come in to effect 7 days later.
 

 

 

What does this mean for Irish people travelling to Spain and The Canary Islands?

 

 
 
 
 
 
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If you are travelling to Spain, including the Canary Islands, between the 23rd and 30th of November, you will need to produce confirmation of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival .  

If you are travelling to Spain, including the Canary Islands between the 30th November and midnight 13th December,  you are NOT required to provide a negative PCR test (as Ireland is considered an Orange region). If Ireland remains orange/amber on the 3rd December, a negative PCR will not be required for arrivals up to the 28th of December.
 

 

 
However, The Canary Islands has a separate regulation in place. ALL visitors who are staying in tourist accommodation must have an antigen test when they arrive. This test can be arranged on arrival and costs €25, the results are usually provided with 30 minutes.
 

 

 
There is also confusion over the governments current travel advice. The current public health advice is that there should be no non-essential international travel, however the Department of Foreign Affairs website states:

“Our current advice for travel to these countries (meaning those included in the ECDC map) is ‘exercise a high degree of caution’. Our general advice for any other overseas travel remains ‘avoid non-essential travel’ or in some cases, ‘do not travel’ ”
 

 

 
While the outlook for international travel still remains bleak in the short term, hopefully by adopting the new EU traffic-light system for travel, it should mean there will be more overseas travel in 2021, providing of course, that it is safe to do so.

travel in 2021 will be more accessible with EU traffic light system in place 

The new EU traffic light system for Ireland is as follows:

Regions are considered Green when:

The 14-day notification rate is lower than 25 cases per 100,000 of population and the test positivity rate is below 4%.

What restrictions apply?

None. Persons arriving from EU green regions are not required to restrict their movements.
 

 

 

Regions are considered Orange when:

The 14-day notification rate is lower than 50 cases per 100,000 of population and the test positivity rate is 4% or higher.

OR

The 14-day notification rate is between 25-150 cases per 100,000 and the test positivity rate is below 4%.

What restrictions apply?

Travellers are required to restrict their movements for 14 days, except where travel is for essential purposes as outlined here.

The request to restrict movements for 14 days can be waived if travellers have received a negative/not detected Covid-19 PCR test result during the three days before arriving in Ireland. In this case, passengers are requested to have supporting evidence of the negative test in their possession. 

It is also possible to reduce quarantine times by taking a PCR test in Ireland, five days after arrival – see more below.

 

 

 

Regions are considered Red when:

The 14-day notification rate is 50 cases per 100,000 of population or higher and the test positivity rate is 4% or higher 

OR

The 14-day notification rate is higher than 150 cases per 100,000.

What restrictions apply?

Travellers are required to restrict their movements for 14 days, except where travel is for essential purposes as outlined here. Quarantine times can be reduced by testing – see below.

 

 

 

Regions are considered Grey when:

There is insufficient information provided, or if the testing rate is lower than 300 cases per 100,000 of population.

What restrictions apply?

Travellers are required to restrict their movements for 14 days, except where travel is for essential purposes as outlined here.
 

 

 

If I take Covid-19 PCR test, can I eliminate or reduce quarantine times in Ireland?

travel updates due to coronavirus

The request to restrict movements for 14 days can be waived for passengers arriving from an Orange region, if they have received a negative/not detected PCR test result during the three days before arriving in Ireland. In this case, passengers are requested to have supporting evidence of the negative test in their possession.
 

 

 
Travellers arriving after 29th of November from a Red region can restrict their movements for five days, and then take a Covid-19 PCR test in Ireland. If they are in receipt of a negative / non detected result from this test they will no longer have to restrict their movements – this reduces the quarantine time from 14 days to 5. If the test is positive, they will have to restrict their movements for 14 days.

This provision will also be available to travellers arriving from an Orange region who may not have taken a pre-departure test.

A PCR test with certification is currently available from Randox at a cost of €99 and other suppliers throughout the country. 
 

 

 
Please note, there is currently a separate travel advisory for passengers arriving from Denmark. All such passengers, including those travelling for essential purposes are requested to self-isolate for 14 days.
 

Read: Top 10 tips for travelling during Covid-19

Read: Make sure to fill out Passenger Locator Forms before you travel overseas 

How to get a refund if your flight is cancelled
 

 

 

Is there anything else I should know?

eu traffic light system for travel will see more Irish people travelling in 2021

Notwithstanding the above, travellers are required to adhere to the public health advice and not travel if they are symptomatic of Covid-19, a close contact of a confirmed case, or have been advised to restrict movements by doctors. Everyone arriving in Ireland excluding essential transport workers must complete a passenger locator form and are expected to following the Government’s current public health advice.

Read: Make sure to fill out Passenger Locator Forms before you travel overseas

Note: The above guide is researched from reputable websites, however, travel advice and updates are changing on a daily basis. It is important to check with the country and travel provider you are booking with before taking any steps to to travel abroad.

 

 

 

Sarah

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