The European Commission has proposed reopening Europe’s borders to all fully vaccinated visitors including tourists no matter where in the world they come from. At present, only visitors from a small number of countries with very low levels of COVID-19 infections are allowed to enter the bloc if they aren’t ordinarily resident or for a limited number of ‘essential’ reasons.
Under the proposals, European countries would welcome both fully vaccinated tourists, as well as visitors from countries with relatively low levels of infection – although that threshold would be raised from the current limit of 25 cases per 100,000 of the population over a 14-day period to 100 cases per 100,000.
French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen have suggested in recent weeks that Americans would be allowed to holiday in Europe over the summer on the back of the Biden administration’s successful vaccination rollout. More detail is now known how that might become a reality.
The proposals released on Monday will require approval by the bloc’s 27 member states and countries may impose their own additional rules. Some countries may still require visitors to provide proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test, while others may waive this requirement for fully vaccinated travellers.
The European Commission said it would only recognise vaccines currently approved for use on the continent. The European Medicines Agency has so far approved four vaccines: Comirnaty (commonly known as the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine), Moderna, Janssen (otherwise known as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine) and Vaxzevria (also referred to as the AstraZeneca vaccine).
Although the EU is considering accepting World Health Organization (WHO) approved vaccines, that would still bar tourists who have been vaccinated with Chinese vaccines, as well as the Russian Sputnik vaccine (currently under rolling review by the EMA).
Vaccinated tourists must have received the final dose of an approved vaccine at least 14 days before travelling to Europe under the proposals. The European Commission is currently developing a digital ‘green’ certificate that would prove a traveller’s vaccination status although no update on when the system will be up and running was provided on Monday.
The Commission said the system should still allow tourists from non-member countries to prove their vaccination status on an individual basis.
Children who aren’t eligible for a vaccine will still be allowed to travel so long as they present a negative COVID-19 test certificate.
von der Leyen warned on Monday that the reopening plans would come with an ’emergency brake’ that could be used to swing shut Europe’s borders at a moments notice if the continent was threatened by mutant variants.
A spokesperson for the Commission said he was hopeful that member states would accept the recommendations by the end of this month with non-essential travel expected to start from early June.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.