Brussels agrees that Member States can punctually restrict border mobility

After a long day of telematic meetings, the countries of the European Union (EU) have agreed that each member state may restrict mobility on its internal borders if the health situation requires it. This decision also applies to the external borders of the EU.

However, this border control will not affect free movement within the Schengen area. A commitment by the members of the community bloc to maintain the proper functioning of the internal market.

The joint decision comes after growing concern about the spread of new variants of COVID-19.

They also agreed to strengthen the diagnostic capacity of Covid-19 with antigen tests, cheaper and faster than PCR but less reliable, and provided a common framework for the recognition of these tests throughout the EU.

“It is a fundamental tool to help mitigate the spread of the virus and contribute to the proper functioning of the internal market,” the EU Council reported this Thursday in a statement, in which it specified that PCRs are still considered the best resource for diagnosis in general.

The decision, adopted by the ambassadors of the Twenty-seven on Wednesday “unanimously”, was announced during the teleconference on the situation of the pandemic in the EU held by the leaders of the Twenty-seven and of the community institutions.

The text, which is not legally binding, calls on governments to “prioritize the use of rapid antigen testing in case of limited nucleic acid amplification testing capabilities” for PCR.

Also “when the time to obtain the result is prolonged so that the tests are no longer clinically useful” then “it would reduce the impact of contact tracing efforts”.

They are also recommended in asymptomatic patients, contacts of confirmed cases, for an aggregation of cases that allows early detection and isolation of patients, in high-risk areas and closed environments such as hospitals and in situations where the positivity rate is higher than 10% of the PCR performed.

The tests should be carried out by “qualified health personnel or other properly trained technicians” and, eventually, and if the investigation shows their effectiveness, “the possibility of a self-diagnosis could also be considered,” the text adds.

“Mutual recognition of the results of SARS-CoV2 infection tests transmitted by certified health organizations is essential to facilitate cross-border movement, tracing and treatment of cross-border contacts,” the Council added.

According to the adopted recommendation, “a common list” of rapid antigen tests and a digital platform will be created for “the exchange of a standardized set of data” between Member States.

That list will be “flexible enough to add or remove those tests whose effectiveness is affected by mutations of Covid-19,” added the Council of the EU, an institution that represents the member states.

Likewise, it will be indicated in which situations it is specifically recommended to resort to these tests, for example, contacts of confirmed cases, groups of outbreaks.

The approval of the recommendation responds to the request of the EU Heads of State and Government at the European Council last December. The leaders then analyzed a previous proposal from the European Commission that defined what minimum reliability these tests should have and in what situations they should be applied, in line with the text approved by the Twenty-seven.