The EU has today moved a step closer to reopening for visitors from overseas, as the Union has agreed to allow vaccinated travelers to visit the bloc. After more than a year of severely restricted travel, the news will come as a welcome move for the millions who have been separated from family and friends. Final approval is expected Friday, with the timeline for implementation likely revealed then.
EU is preparing to open to the world
After more than a year of closed borders, the EU is preparing to open its doors once again for all fully vaccinated travelers. Following a meeting of European Union ambassadors today, an agreement has been reached to implement the change.
This will allow visitors from all over the world to come back to the bloc’s 27 member states, without quarantine or testing requirements, providing they have received both doses of an EU-approved vaccine. European Commission spokesman Christian Wigand told the Washington Post.
“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.”
While it is not immediately apparent when these measures will be implemented, a final approval and sign-off on the changes is expected Friday. This should bring some clarity to the timeline for border reopening, as well as means of proving vaccination status.
EU approval has been given to most of the vaccines currently in circulation. All those being used in the USA 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 have had both shots of the 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
As well as opening up to vaccinated visitors, the EU ambassadors also agreed to a relaxation of the criteria for considering a country ‘safe’ for travel. The current safe list adopted by EU nations is comprised of only seven countries: Australia, Israel, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and China.
With many of these countries still closed to visitors, and with outbound travel restrictions in place, this left limited possibilities for the EU’s tourism industry to begin recovery. 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 Centers for Disease Control and is likely to include a threshold of 75 new COVID cases per 100,000 people in the past two weeks.
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.