EU takes step towards relaxing tourism travel for fully vaccinated visitors

Two chairs rest on the sand at a nearly empty beach in Albufeira, in Portugal’s southern Algarve region (AP)
16:08pm, Wed 19 May 2021
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The European Union has taken a step towards relaxing tourism travel for visitors from outside the bloc, with EU ambassadors agreeing on measures to allow fully vaccinated visitors in.

They also agreed on easing the criteria for nations to be considered a safe country, from which all tourists can travel.

Up to now, that list included only seven nations.

The EU imposed strict measures last year to contain Covid-19 outbreaks but the bloc’s 27 ambassadors now say many of those restrictions on non-essential travel should be eased.

The council should also soon expand the list of non-EU countries with a good epidemiological situation from where travel is permitted

Specifically, tourists from outside the bloc who have been fully vaccinated should be allowed in.

The EU Council “will now recommend that member states ease some of the current restrictions” for those who have been vaccinated, said EU Commission spokesman Christian Wigand.

He did not give a precise date for when the borders will reopen since EU countries have yet to formally approve the measures.

“The council should also soon expand the list of non-EU countries with a good epidemiological situation from where travel is permitted,” said Mr Wigand.

The EU’s European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control is to give advice on the list.

The relaxation of rules was proposed earlier this month by the European Commission, which said entry should be granted to all those fully vaccinated with EU-authorised jabs.

Workers arrange sunbeds as others install umbrellas at Plaka beach on the Aegean island of Naxos, Greece (AP)

Coronavirus vaccines authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the bloc’s drug regulator, include Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, also known as the Janssen vaccine.

The executive commission also proposed permitting EU member nations to decide individually whether to allow in travellers immunised with vaccines approved by the World Health Organisation for emergency use, which include the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine.

Mr Wigand said ambassadors also agreed on an “emergency brake” mechanism designed to stop dangerous virus variants from entering the 27-nation bloc through quickly enacted travel limits if the infection situation deteriorates in a non-EU country.

Once the non-binding measures are approved, EU countries will keep the possibility to impose restrictive measures on tourists such as PCR tests or quarantines.

EU nations have been struggling throughout the pandemic to prop up their vital tourism industry and hope to recover some income over the peak summer season.

Greece, which is heavily reliant on tourism, has already lifted quarantine restrictions for the US, Britain, Israel, and other non-EU countries as negotiations between governments and EU legislators to introduce Covid-19 certificates aimed at facilitating travel across the region this summer continue.

A deal is required by end of the month to ensure the system will be up and running by the end of June.

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