Published on : Tuesday, May 4, 2021
According to the latest plans of the European Commission, the EU has decided to reopen to holidaymakers from countries with low COVID infection rates, such as the U.K., and to anyone who has been completely vaccinated, starting from the beginning of June. Officials confirmed that the EU borders would be reopened by June 2021 at the latest with agreement due to be sought from member states this month.
As the rate of vaccination has been constantly rising in the EU member states, commission officials said it was time to relax rules on non-essential travel while legislating to provide powers to pull an emergency brake if necessary. Under the new rule, the requirement to undergo COVID testing before or after arrival or to quarantine could still be enforced by individual states. However, officials have said that if situation continues to improving and the vaccination rate picks up immensely pace, a gradual phasing out of the additional conditions could also be considered.
Ursula von der Leyen, President, the European Commission took to social media and shared that the time to safely revive tourism industry and rekindle cross-border friendships has arrived. She mentioned that the EU is decided to welcome back vaccinated visitors and those from countries with a good health situation. However, she also mentioned that if variants emerge EU will have to act fast and implement a emergency brake mechanism.
Tight restrictions on those wishing to travel into the EU have been in force since last year. Under the commission’s proposals, member states would allow travel into the EU of those people who had received the final dose of an authorised vaccine at least 14 days before arrival. The vaccines made in Russia and China, Sputnik and Sinopharm, are yet to be approved by the European medicines agency. Those administered with these jabs would not be able to rely on the vaccines for entry.
The commission also informed that unless quarantine and testing rules were waived, children who are excluded from vaccination will be able to travel with their vaccinated parents only if they have a negative PCR COVID-19 test taken at the earliest 72 hours before arrival. However, those who have not been fully vaccinated will also be allowed into the EU if they are coming from a country with a good epidemiological situation. As of now, only Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand are on a green list allowing for non-essential travel into the EU.
The commission is also proposing to increase the threshold of 14-day cumulative COVID-19 case notification rate from 25 to 100. The UK’s rate is about 23.2 in every 100,000 people. A senior official said the UK could be added to the green list but it would depend on a reciprocal willingness to open its borders to all EU citizens. Officials added that Israel would also be on the exempt list, given its low level of infection. As for the US, although the country is not being considered a part of the green list for the time being but EU is also taking note of how quickly the situation in the US is evolving, notably for the rate of vaccination.
The commission has also said that if 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 will be able to urgently and temporarily suspend all inbound travel by non-EU citizens resident in such a country. The only exceptions would be healthcare professionals, transport personnel, diplomats, transit passengers, those travelling for imperative family reasons, seafarers, and people in need of international protection or for other humanitarian reasons. They would instead be subject to strict testing and quarantine arrangements even if they have been vaccinated.
The commission will draw up a list of approved vaccination certificates issued by non-EU countries, with discussions with the US government said to be at an advanced stage. Talks are yet to be opened with the U.K. A U.K. government spokesperson mentioned that ensuring free and open travel with the European partners is vitally important, which is why the U.K. will be engaging the European Commission on reopening travel routes from the U.K. shortly.
The commission’s announcement will also come as welcome news to people in the U.K. hoping to take a European summer holiday. As per the U.K. government’s plan to relax coronavirus restrictions, international travel for leisure purposes could resume from 17 May. A traffic light system is also expected to be unveiled this week under which countries will be added to green, amber and red lists, with different rules regarding issues such as quarantine of returning travellers for each list.