The European Union (EU) has moved a step closer to reopening to foreign travellers, as the Union has allowed vaccinated people to visit the bloc. It has now been more than a year of closed borders and this decision will come as a welcome move for the millions of people who have been separated from family and friends.
Finally reopening to vaccinated travellers
The EU, after more than a year of severely restricted travel, is all set to open its doors once again to all vaccinated travellers. An agreement has been reached to implement the change following a meeting of the European Union Ambassadors.
This decision means that travellers from across the globe will be allowed to visit the bloc’s 27 member countries, without quarantine or testing requirements. The only condition is that the traveller should have both the shots of a EU-approved vaccine. Christian Wigand, Spokesman, European Commission, said:
“Today E.U. ambassadors agreed to update the approach to travel from outside the European Union. [The European Council] now recommends that member states ease some restrictions, in particular for those vaccinated with an E.U.-authorized vaccine.”
It is not immediately apparent as to when these measures will come into effect. However, a final approval and sign-off on the changes is expected on Friday (21st May 2021). This should bring some clarity to the timeline for border reopening, as well as means of proving vaccination status.
The EU has given approval to most of the vaccines that are currently in circulation. The vaccines that are used in the United States have the green light, including Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer, with only those produced in China and Russia not currently on the approved list.
It is thought that quarantine-free travel will be extended to only those who are fully vaccinated, meaning that those who have received both the doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Those who have received only their first shot will likely still be required to test on arrival, and may be subject to quarantine.
Safe country list to be expanded
In addition to opening up to vaccinated travellers, the EU ambassadors also agreed to a relaxation of the criteria for considering a country ‘safe’ for travel. Currently there are only 8 countries present on EU’s ‘safe’ list. They are Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Israel, South Korea, Thailand, China and Rwanda.
Many of these countries are still closed to visitors, with outbound travel restrictions present. This has meant that the EU has limited possibilities for its tourism industry to recover. The list is expected to be updated soon, and many believe that the US is likely to make the cut. Wigand continued:
“The council should also soon expand the list of non-EU countries with a good epidemiological situation from where travel is permitted.”
The refresh of the safe countries list will be undertaken with guidance from the Centre for Disease Control and is likely to include a threshold of 75 new COVID cases per 100,000 people in the past two weeks.
Additionally, negotiations on intra-European travel are continuing, with the focus of the conversation on the proposed vaccine passport. If this is accepted as a recognizable means of proving vaccination status, it could see unrestricted travel throughout the bloc resuming as soon as next month.
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