EC Lifts Restrictions on Non-Essential Travel amid Rapid Vaccine Rollout


Brussels is seeking to ensure the EU's rapidly accelerating vaccination rollout is not threatened by new virus variants, and that there is reciprocity for Europeans going overseas. Its proposal will be discussed with member states' ambassadors this week and the Commission hopes it could enter into force by June.

New proposals from the European Commission on Monday, but still requiring approval by the EU's 27 member states, would allow in fully vaccinated foreign citizens and those from countries with a "good epidemiological situation".

"Even vaccinated persons would be subject to the travel restrictions coming from these countries subject to this emergency brake", said a commission spokesman, Adalbert Jahnz.

"Until the Digital Green Certificate is operational, member states should be able to accept certificates from non-EU countries", the Commission said, adding that children who are excluded from vaccination should be able to travel with their vaccinated parents if they provide a negative PCR test.

"We propose to welcome again vaccinated & those from countries with a good health situation".

After almost a year of closed borders, the European Union could open in June to fully vaccinated vacationers from countries with low Covid infection rates in time for summer under a plan revealed on Monday.

Until now, the Commission had only proposed lifting restrictions on arrivals from a limited number of countries including Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand with a similar plan for Chinese travellers pending a deal on reciprocity.

An EU official involved in drafting the recommendation told journalists an old threshold of 25 infections per 100,000 fixed almost a year ago would be raised to 100 to reflect "a different reality" because of increasing vaccinations.

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The President of the EU Commission, Ursula von de Leyen, commented on the proposal on Twitter.

European countries are keen to welcome back big-spending American tourists under the eased travel restrictions, though the EU official speaking to journalists said the United States must first "put its own house in order".

"The UK, question mark, the USA, for the time being, not quite", he said.

"It's about getting the risk balance right and we don't believe the United Kingdom has done that yet". Travelers might still be subject to quarantines or other tests depending on the decision of their destination country, but they would not face the blanket ban that is now in place.

The EMA has not approved any vaccines from Russian Federation or China as of yet but is looking at data for Russia's Sputnik V jab.

The commission said that vaccines that have completed the World Health Organization emergency use listing process may also be included.

Other certificates may also be used to enter the European Union, given that they are recognised as equivalent by the Commission.

Meanwhile, the commission also emphasized the importance of maintaining vigilance against the emergence of COVID-19 variants.