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EU Set to Open its Borders to Vaccinated Third-country Travelers

Photo source: Council of Europe – Newsroom

Travelers from third countries wishing to visit member states of the European Union will soon be able to do so as long as they provide proof of vaccination against Covid-19, the EU Council announced this week.

More specifically, EU member states agreed on Wednesday to loosen restrictions for incoming non-EU travelers. The Union is making efforts to salvage it tourism season, which for many countries, including Greece, is a key revenue generator.

Among others, in its statement, the Council notes that it will be introducing waivers for vaccinated travelers (with proof of completed vaccination 14 days before arrival) and easing restrictions for third countries. 

Acceptable vaccines are those by Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca (two doses), and by Johnson & Johnson.

The plan also foresees that EU countries waiving test or quarantine requirements for vaccinated EU tourists are encouraged to do the same for vaccinated non-EU holidaymakers.

Photo source: @European Commission

On Wednesday, the European Commission welcomed the EU Council agreement on updating the approach to travel from outside the EU.

EU states also agreed to launch an “emergency brake mechanism” which will go into effect immediately should a variant of the deadly virus appear in a third country. It would allow only essential travel from a particular country. Due to a new strain in the UK, the country may face a ban under the emergency brake rule.

The EU will keep an eye on the development of Covid-19 cases in third countries including the progress of vaccination rollouts, the emergence of new variants, the trends of new cases, the number of tests performed, a 4% positivity rate among all tests carried out, the overall Covid-19 response in a country, and the reliability of available information. 

“Reciprocity should continue to be taken into account on a case by case basis,” said the Council in its statement.

It should be noted that each individual EU member retains the right to request negative PCR test results or self-isolation. 

Lastly, once the EU Covid-19 Certificate – which verifies if a traveler has been fully vaccinated, holds a negative PCR test result or a Covid-19 recovery certificate – goes into effect, the European Commission will set the terms for treating third country vaccination certificates equivalent. 

For the time being, the digital vaccination pass is still in negotiation phase with a fourth round of talks scheduled today in efforts to have a compromise by the end of the week so that it can be put into effect this summer

In the meantime, the Council recommends EU states accept third country certificates containing at least a minimum amount of data.

The EU agreement still needs formal ministerial approval. 

Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reiterated this week that it supports unrestricted access to travel for vaccinated travelers adding that  in cases where vaccination is not possible, access to quarantine-free travel should be provided through Covid-19 testing strategies based on accessible and free-of-charge tests.

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  1. Sandra Fawcett Reply

    With effect from 17th May all UK residents who have been fully vaccinated now have an electronic record confirming this on the National Health Service website. Anyone unable to access the website can obtain a printed proof of vaccination to carry with them.

    The spread of the Indian variant which has been detected in 2 or 3 small, concentrated areas of the UK (North West England) is proving to be limited by the vaccinations and not as infectious as first thought. Mass testing and vaccination in those affected towns for people of 18 years and upwards seems to be bringing it speedily under control so we trust that this will not bring about an over-reaction by the EU. No doubt there are cases in other countries, including EU member countries, already which if tracked and traced diligently can be managed swiftly.

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