EU plans June opening for vaccinated tourists with new proposal
After nearly a year of closed borders, the European Union revealed a plan yesterday (Monday) to open in June to fully vaccinated travellers from countries with low Covid infection rates in time for summer. The easing of restrictions on non-essential travel, which will be welcomed by countries desperate to revive struggling tourism industries, would also allow for an "emergency brake" should infection rates rise again.
Reflecting success with vaccination programs, the EU also wants to relax qualification rules for adding to its ‘safe travel list’ of countries whose travellers don't need to be vaccinated or to enter quarantine.
Officials hope the plan could be implemented by the end of June, a year since the EU closed its external borders to most travellers, but borders could open up sooner depending on how quickly European countries sign off the proposal.
The move comes as some of the 27 member countries are already planning to forge ahead with opening up to tourism. Greece said last month that almost all fully vaccinated or Covid-tested international travellers can enter their country from the middle of May.
The proposals, published by the European Commission, advised that arrivals must have been inoculated 14 days before arrival with a vaccine from its approved list, which currently includes the Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Janssen and Moderna vaccines.
"Member states could also extend this to those vaccinated with a vaccine havingthat has completed the WHO emergency use listing process," a European Commission statement added.
At the heart of the EU plan is the "Digital Green Certificate" that will stand as proof of vaccination or immunity, and allow for travel across internal and external European Union borders. International travellers will be able to obtain one by submitting evidence to their initial destination country that they've been vaccinated. But before it's introduced, member states are advised they will need to take steps to verify the authenticity of any vaccination proof presented by visitors.
Yesterday’s proposals also recommended changing the way the European Union decides which countries are on its travel safe list. Currently only travellers from seven nations, including Australia, New Zealand and Rwanda, are allowed to enter some EU countries on holiday without proof of vaccination or undergoing mandatory quarantine.
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"The proposal is to increase the threshold of the 14-day incidence rate from 25 to 100) per 100,000 inhabitants)," the EU's statement said. "This remains considerably below the current EU average, which is over 420."
In the latest data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the United States has an IA14 of 258 so would not be added to the safe travel list, but the UK which has a rate of 47, would be allowed under the new rules.
However, the EU Commission proposal does include a so-called "emergency brake," that, "If or when the epidemiological situation of a non-EU country worsens quickly, and in particular if a variant of concern or interest is detected, a member state can urgently and temporarily suspend all inbound travel by non-EU citizens resident in such a country."
The plans will be discussed by the ambassadors of European countries tomorrow (May 5th), and once signed off the list of safe countries will be reviewed every two weeks. Decisions about borders can only be made by individual countries, so each member state will decide whether to implement these proposals or not.