The European Commission has proposed plans to reopen to tourists from countries with low Covid-19 infection rates as well as fully Covid-vaccinated foreign tourists from June, although the bloc would retain an ‘emergency brake’.
1. Reopening of EU borders
Yesterday, the Commission proposed that Member States ease the current restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU to take into account the progress of vaccination campaigns and developments in the epidemiological situation worldwide. The Commission proposes to allow entry to the EU for non-essential travel from countries with a good epidemiological situation and all people who have received the last recommended dose of an EU-authorised vaccine. The Commission also proposes to raise the threshold related to the number of new Covid-19 cases used to determine from which countries all travel is allowed therefore increasing the number of countries.
2. An ’emergency brake’ system
At the same time, the emergence of coronavirus variants of concern calls for continued vigilance. Therefore as counter-balance, the Commission proposes a new ‘emergency brake’ mechanism, to be coordinated at EU level and which would limit the risk of such variants entering the EU. This will allow Member States to act quickly and temporarily limit to a strict minimum all travel from affected countries for the time needed to put in place appropriate sanitary measures.
3. Non-essential travel for vaccinated travellers
The Commission proposes that Member States lift restrictions on non-essential travel for vaccinated persons travelling to the EU. Member States should allow travel into the EU of those people who have received, at least 14 days before arrival, the last recommended dose of a vaccine having received marketing authorisation in the EU. Member States could also extend this to those vaccinated with a vaccine having completed the WHO emergency use listing process. If Member States decide to waive the requirements of a negative PCR test and/or quarantine for vaccinated persons, they should also waive such requirements for vacccinated travellers from outside the EU. This should be facilitated once the Digital Green Certificate becomes operational and until it is operational Member States should be able to accept certificates from non-EU countries based on national law. Children who are excluded from vaccination should be able to travel with their vaccinated parents if they have a negative PCR COVID-19 test taken at the earliest 72 hours before arrival area. In these cases, Member States could require additional testing after arrival.
4. Lifting non-essential travel restrictions
Non-essential travel regardless of individual vaccination status is currently permitted from 7 countries with a good epidemiological situation, a list decided by the Council on the basis of epidemiological criteria. The Commission is proposing to amend this criteria to take into account the mounting evidence of the positive impact of vaccination campaigns. The proposal is to increase the threshold of 14-day cumulative COVID-19 case notification rate from 25 to 100. This remains considerably below the current EU average, which is over 420, whilst the UK’s rate for exanmple is about 23.2. This should expand the list of countries from which non-essential travel is permitted regardless of vaccination status, subject to health-related measures such as testing and/or quarantine. As now, the Council should review this list at least every 2 weeks.
Time to revive 🇪🇺 tourism industry & for cross-border friendships to rekindle – safely.— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) May 3, 2021
We propose to welcome again vaccinated visitors & those from countries with a good health situation.
But if variants emerge we have to act fast: we propose an EU emergency brake mechanism.
5. The UK and the EU
Regarding borders with the UK, The Guardian reported a senior EU official said, “The figures for the UK are good” and that, “Those vaccinated in the UK will be eligible to travel to the EU but [we are] mindful of other aspects: reciprocity. It is still a principle under this new recommendation.” The official also said that Israel would be on the exempt list because of its low level of infection. Summing up, “The UK: question mark. The US: for the time being, not quite,” he said. “But we see how quickly the situation in the US is evolving, notably for the rate of vaccination.”
6. Reactions to the proposal
In reaction to the proposal, European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen tweeted, “Time to revive tourism industry & for cross-border friendships to rekindle – safely. We propose to welcome again vaccinated visitors & those from countries with a good health situation. But if variants emerge we have to act fast: we propose an EU emergency brake mechanism.” Meanshile European Travel Commission Executive Director, Eduardo Santander told Euronews yesterday, “Today’s announcement will have a direct effect on the travel demand and much-needed bookings. This booking window is crucial to save the summer season and help tourism entrepreneurs to make a living out of their businesses again”.