The EU would reopen its doors to holidaymakers from countries with low Covid infection rates, such as the UK, and anyone fully vaccinated, by early June as part of a European Commission plan.
With vaccination rates increasing ‘dramatically’ in EU member states, Commission officials have said it is time to relax rules on non-essential travel while legislating to provide powers to shoot an “emergency brake” if necessary.
EU borders would reopen no later than early June, officials said, with an agreement to be sought from member states at meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The existing obligation to undergo Covid testing before or after arrival or to quarantine could still be enforced by member states, but EU officials added that “hopefully with the improvement of the situation and the considerable increase in the vaccination rate, we will also see a gradual elimination of these conditions ”.
Strict restrictions on those wishing to enter the EU have been in place since last year. The commission’s announcement will be good news for people in the UK hoping to take a summer vacation in Europe.
As part of the UK government’s plan to ease coronavirus restrictions, international leisure travel could resume from May 17. A traffic light system is expected to be unveiled this week in which countries will be added to the green, amber and red lists, with different rules regarding issues such as quarantine of returning travelers for each list.
According to the committee’s proposals, member states would allow travel to the EU for people who had received, at least 14 days before arrival, the final dose of an authorized vaccine.
Even those who have not been fully vaccinated will be allowed to enter the EU if they come from a country with a “good epidemiological situation”.
As it stands, only seven countries in the world are on a green list that allows non-essential travel. The commission proposes to increase the threshold for the cumulative 14-day Covid-19 case notification rate from 25 to 100. The UK rate is around 23.2 per 100,000 people.
A senior official said the UK could be added to the green list, but that would depend on a mutual willingness to open its borders to all EU citizens. “The figures for the UK are good,” the EU official said. “People vaccinated in the UK will be able to travel to the EU but [we are are] aware of the other aspects: reciprocity. This is still a principle within the framework of this new recommendation. “
The committee is however proposing an emergency brake. When the epidemiological situation of a non-EU country worsens rapidly and in particular if a worrying or interesting variant is detected, a Member State may “urgently and temporarily suspend all incoming travel by non-EU citizens residing in such a country. “.
The only exceptions would be healthcare professionals, transport personnel, diplomats, transit passengers, those traveling for imperative family reasons, seafarers and persons in need of international protection or for other humanitarian reasons. Rather, they would be subject to strict testing and quarantine arrangements even if they had been vaccinated.