In an announcement that will certainly be welcomed by travelers around the world, the EU executive branch has proposed to relax restrictions on visits to the bloc of 27 countries, as vaccination campaigns continue to pick up speed
BRUSSELS – In an announcement that is sure to be welcomed by travelers around the world, EU officials on Monday proposed easing restrictions on visits to the 27-nation bloc as vaccination campaigns across the continent gain speed.
Travel to the European Union is currently extremely limited, except in some countries with low infection rates. But as the summer tourism season approaches, the bloc’s European Commission hopes that the new recommendations will dramatically expand that list.
The Commission hopes that the move will soon allow travelers to meet with their friends and relatives living in Europe and support the bloc’s economy this summer.
“It is time to revive the tourism industry in the EU and to rekindle cross-border friendships – safely,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “We propose to welcome visitors who are vaccinated and from countries with good health conditions”.
According to the Commission proposal, entry would be granted to all persons fully vaccinated with vaccines authorized by the EU. Coronavirus vaccines authorized by the European Medicines Agency, the bloc’s drug regulator, include Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. The EMA has not approved any vaccines from Russia or China yet, but is analyzing the data for Russia’s Sputnik V.
EU countries can also individually decide to accept travelers immunized with WHO-listed vaccines for emergency use. The UN health agency has approved the same four vaccines as the EMA and is expected to make a decision soon about China’s Sinopharm vaccine.
EU officials believe the bloc’s COVID-19 vaccination campaigns will soon be “a game changer” in the fight against the deadly virus. Your proposal will be discussed with EU ambassadors this week and the Commission hopes it can start in June, once it is adopted. Still, the recommendation is not binding and EU countries will have the right to maintain travel restrictions in place, if they so wish.
Commission spokesman Adalbert Jahnz said that fully vaccinated travelers from outside the EU should be allowed to visit Europe, but insisted that the purpose of the proposal is not to exempt them from testing or quarantine on arrival.
“This is still very much in the hands of the member states,” he said.
The Commission has also proposed to increase the limit on new COVID-19 cases that are used to determine the countries from which all travel should be allowed.
“Non-essential travel, regardless of individual vaccination status, is currently allowed in seven countries with a good epidemiological situation,” said the document, proposing to increase the cumulative COVID-19 infection rate from 14 days per 100,000 inhabitants from 25 to 100 .
“This remains considerably below the current EU average, which is over 420,” said the report.
It was unclear which countries would actually make the cut, but an EU official who was not authorized to be named by name because the proposal has not yet been adopted said Israel would definitely be on the list.
“The UK, question mark, the US for now, not exactly,” he said. “But we see how quickly the situation in the United States is evolving, especially for the rate of vaccination.”
In the event that the infection situation worsens in a non-EU country, the Commission has proposed an “emergency brake” to prevent dangerous variants of the virus from entering the bloc through quickly enacted travel limits.
EU officials and nations are also talking about the introduction of COVID-19 certificates with the aim of facilitating travel around the region this summer. The documents, sometimes called coronavirus passports or green certificates, would be handed over to EU residents who could prove they were vaccinated, provide a negative coronavirus test or prove that they recovered from COVID-19.
“Until the digital green certificate is operational, member states must be able to accept certificates from non-EU countries,” said the Commission, adding that unvaccinated children must be able to travel with their vaccinated parents if they present a negative PCR test. .
Greece, which relies heavily on tourism, has already lifted quarantine restrictions for the United States, Britain, Israel and other countries outside the EU. On Saturday, Hungary loosened several restrictions on COVID-19 for residents with government-issued immunity cards, given to those who received a dose of the vaccine or recovered from COVID-19.
People with plastic cards could enter indoor dining rooms, hotels, theaters, cinemas, spas, gyms, libraries, museums and other recreational places in Hungary.
The whole issue of COVID-19 passports is of concern in many parts of the world, with critics saying that they discriminate against people in poorer countries or young people who do not have access to vaccines in many countries. The Hungarian government has come forward with its own certificates because it has vaccinated people with a variety of vaccines, including vaccines from China and Russia that have not been approved by the EMA.