About a week ago the president of the European Commission hinted that the European Union would open to vaccinated travelers. With today’s announcements, that’s one step closer to becoming a reality.
European Union’s plans to ease travel restrictions
While a couple of European Union countries (including Croatia and Greece) have already opened to visitors on a widespread basis, most of the European Union continues to remain closed, regardless of whether or not someone has been vaccinated.
That’s expected to change, as the European Commission has formally recommended that member states ease travel restrictions for fully vaccinated people, as well as those coming from countries with few coronavirus cases. We now have a sense of what this would look like.
European Union to allow vaccinated travelers
With this update, travelers from around the globe who are vaccinated would be allowed to enter the European Union for non-essential travel. As it’s described, this reflects the latest scientific advice showing that vaccination considerably helps break the transmission chain.
With this proposal, member states should allow fully vaccinated travelers to enter:
- You’re considered fully vaccinated when it has been two weeks since your last recommended dose of the vaccine
- The vaccine must have received marketing authorization in the European Union (which all vaccines in the United States have received)
- If a member state waives the requirements for a negative PCR test and/or a quarantine for residents, then these should also be waived for vaccinated visitors
- Member states should accept certificates from non-EU countries based on national law, taking into account the ability to verify authenticity, validity, and integrity of the certificate; eventually the EU plans to use a Digital Green Certificate system for this
- Children who are not able to get vaccinated should be able to travel with their vaccinated parents if they have a negative PCR COVID-19 test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival in Europe
I’m sure parents will be happy to see that unvaccinated children are expected to be allowed in the European Union with testing.
European Union to allow unvaccinated travelers from more countries
Currently the European Union only allows unvaccinated visitors from seven other countries (like Australia and New Zealand), and that’s determined exclusively by countries having few coronavirus cases.
With this proposal, the European Union plans to expand this:
- Non-essential travel should be allowed regardless of vaccination status if someone is coming from a country with a 14-day cumulative COVID-19 case notification rate of 100 or less
- As a point of comparison, currently the restrictions are based on a notification rate of 25 or less, and for that matter the European Union has a case notification rate of 420
Based on current numbers, this would mean that all visitors from the United Kingdom would be allowed, while visitors from the United States wouldn’t be allowed. Again, this is exclusively for those who aren’t vaccinated, since vaccinated people from around the world would be allowed to visit the European Union.
This list would be reviewed every two weeks, so the countries that would be allowed could constantly change. The European Union would also have the ability to institute an “emergency brake” in situations where case rates significantly worsen in a country, especially if it’s due to a new variant.
What happens next?
As you can see, while the European Commission has made a formal recommendation, it’s now up to the European Council to consider this proposal:
- The Council is expected to have a meeting on May 4 to discuss the technical aspects of the proposal, and then a discussion is expected to take place on May 5 at the meeting of the EU Ambassadors
- Once the proposal is adopted by the Council, it will be up to member states to implement the measures set out in the recommendation
- The Council would review the list of non-EU countries exempt from travel restrictions in light of updated criteria every two weeks
It looks like we could potentially see travel restrictions lifted pretty soon, though of course there could also be further road blocks.
The European Union is moving closer to welcoming vaccinated travelers from around the world (including children of vaccinated travelers, if they get tested). On top of that, the European Union plans to allow travelers from more countries who aren’t vaccinated, by increasing the maximum number of new cases allowed for a country to be considered “safe.”
Here’s to hoping that these changes become a reality sooner rather than later.