European Union member states this week agreed to adopt a shared "traffic light" system to coordinate international travel across the continent.

The new system should make it easier for potential travelers to understand the increasingly complex and ever-changing rules around travel. Countries will be designated green, orange or red depending on infection rates there. Data will be provided by the European Centre for Disease Control and the system will be updated weekly.

Traffic light travel chart
Data for the traffic light system will be supplied by the European Centre for Disease Control and updated weekly ©European Centre for Disease Control

Colors will be determined by a variety of factors including the 14-day incidence per 100,000 of the population and the level of positive tests. Countries with not enough data will be designated a gray color. Under the traffic light system, travelers from green and orange regions can move freely without quarantine, though there may be recommendations for those traveling from orange areas to present a negative COVID-19 test result. While people traveling from red or gray zones must present a negative COVID-19 test result before traveling, or undergo quarantine when they arrive.

“Our right to move freely across the EU has been severely impacted by the pandemic. On top of this, citizens have been faced with so many different rules and procedures, unclear information about areas of high and low risk, and a lack of clarity about what to do when travelling," a spokesperson for the European Commission said on Tuesday, adding that the agreement will be "a welcome improvement to a currently precarious situation."

The traffic light system will see EU member states adopt a common approach to travel restrictions ©Frankfurt International Airport/Getty Images

The traffic light system is voluntary. It is up to each country to decide whether they want to take part, though the majority of EU countries have already agreed to adopt it. Each member state can set out their own requirements, such as requiring negative tests or different quarantine periods. Italy, for example, is requiring all visitors from high-risk countries to present a negative COVID-19 test result before arriving.

The new system will be formally rolled out next week, and data will be published 24 hours before the color-coded map is updated weekly. All information on the traffic light system will be made available on the Re-open EU web platform.

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