Covid: EU to lift travel restrictions for vaccinated tourists

Proposals could be adopted by the end of May in time for summer

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The EU on Monday proposed easing Covid-19 restrictions for fully vaccinated tourists or those from countries where infection rates are low.

The move would kick-start summer holidays in Europe and provide some respite for beleaguered travel operators throughout the region.

It’s “time to revive the EU tourism industry and for cross-border friendships to rekindle – safely,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

Europe is showing signs of gaining control of its third wave thanks to lockdowns and its stuttering vaccination drive gaining momentum.

The proposals require approval from a weighted majority of the bloc’s 27 member states and could be adopted as soon as the end of May, a commission official said.

How new EU travel restrictions will work

The new parameters would replace a year-long blanket ban for non-essential travel to the EU for residents of all but a handful of countries.

Under the proposals, member states would be obliged to accept proof for all shots approved in the EU, including those produced by Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

National governments would have the discretion to accept shots that have cleared the WHO emergency use listing process, but they can’t recognise other vaccines on their own.

This means people inoculated with Russia’s Sputnik or the Sinopharm and Sinovac shots from China would not be allowed to travel freely to the EU solely based on their immunisation status.

The new rules include a so-called emergency brake which would allow member states to restore travel bans on countries where risky new variants emerge or contagion rates surge.

In such an event only essential workers, such as diplomats and healthcare staff, would be allowed entry, and even then they would be subject to strict testing and quarantine requirements.

A commission official told reporters in Brussels that Israel would definitely be on the list, while decisions on UK residents would depend on reciprocity, adding further intrigue to the UK's yet-to be-released green travel list.

The commission will draw up a list of approved vaccination certificates issued by non-EU countries.

Discussions with Washington aim to pave the way for a uniform certificate that meets the EU’s security and accuracy standards, the commission official said.

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