Thursday

13th May 2021

Brussels wants to ease travel into EU for vaccinated tourists

  • International travellers will have to present a certificate indicating that they have been fully-vaccinated at least 14 days before entering the EU (Photo: Ataturk airport)

The European Commission has suggested easing restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU, reflecting the evolving epidemiological situation and progress of inoculation programmes worldwide.

"Time to revive [Europe's] tourism industry and for cross-border friendships to rekindle - safely," the president of the EU executive, Ursula von der Leyen, tweeted on Monday (3 May).

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  • Currently, travellers from Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand are the only ones allowed to enter the EU for non-essential reasons (Photo: European Commission)

In a new proposal, the EU Commission is recommending member states lift restrictions for all non-EU tourists who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 - either with a jab authorised by the EU drug regulator or the World Health Organization (WHO).

So far, BioNTech/Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson&Johnson vaccines are the only ones approved by the EU and the WHO, which is also expected to decide on two Chinese vaccines this week.

Meanwhile, both are reviewing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine.

Travellers coming into the EU will have to present a certificate which indicates that they have been fully-vaccinated at least 14 days before arrival.

However, this certificate will not exempt them from requirements such as presenting a negative PCR test or undergoing a quarantine, if member states deem them necessary, as national capitals are ultimately responsible for health matters.

Nevertheless, vaccinated nationals and non-Europeans should be subjected to the same measures, according to the EU Commission.

Therefore, if EU country decides to waive test or quarantine restrictions for vaccinated people on their territory, they should also waive such requirements for vaccinated non-EU travellers.

Tackling risk of variants

Meanwhile, the EU Commission also wants to allow entry to travellers from third countries with a "good epidemiological situation" - based on the number of infections per 100,000 people over two weeks.

The proposal would see the infection threshold increase from 25 cases per 100,000 decided last June to 100 cases. This is below the current EU average, which is over 420.

Currently, non-essential travel to the EU from third countries is extremely restricted, except for a limited number of countries - namely Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.

However, the adapted threshold would expand the list considerably, a commission official said.

The EU executive also pointed out that reciprocity should be considered by member states when easing travel restrictions from third countries, as well as the number of tests carried out and its positivity rate.

The proposal also foresees a new 'emergency brake' mechanism that would allow member states to quickly suspend travel, in a coordinated way, from countries where a "variant of concern or interest is detected".

The EU Commission expects member states to adopt this proposal at the end of the month. A preliminary discussion with EU ambassadors will take place on Wednesday.

This proposal is complementary to the EU digital green certificate - a measure which will also be in place during the summer to facilitate free movement across the EU.

Non-EU citizens will also be eligible to have this certificate if all necessary information about the vaccination, test or recovery from the illness is provided.

But member states could object to the issuing of this document to those who have been vaccinated with non-EU approved jabs.

The coronavirus crisis has cost the global tourism sector a estimated €1 trillion in lost revenue in 2020, according to the World Tourism Organization.

Opinion

Legal worries on EU's 'green certificates' for Covid travel

With the prospect of rolling non-lethal pandemics, and border-checks based primarily on vaccination status, the assertion in the EU's 'green certificate' memorandum that the proposal "cannot be interpreted as establishing an obligation or right to be vaccinated" seems disingenuous.

MEPs raise concerns on vaccine 'travel certificates'

While most MEPs have been vocal in support of the proposal by the European Commission for EU-wide vaccine certificates, key questions remain - ranging from fundamental rights, to its scientific validity.

First glimpse of new EU 'vaccine certificate' for summer

The European Commission has presented a common approach to vaccine certificates to facilitate travel. All EU-wide approved vaccines will be accepted for this document, but member states can decide to accept other vaccines too.

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