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COVID-19

UPDATE: EU agrees to reopen borders to 15 countries but excludes US from safe travel list

EU countries have finally agreed to reopen their external borders on July 1st to visitors from 15 countries but American tourists will still not be allowed to travel to Europe because the US is still considered a risk due to the high number of Covid-19 cases.

UPDATE: EU agrees to reopen borders to 15 countries but excludes US from safe travel list
AFP

The EU 27 member states on Tuesday gave the green light to a list of 15 countries whose citizens will be allowed to travel to European Union from July 1st.

A statement from European Council read: “The Council today adopted a recommendation on the gradual lifting of the temporary restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU. Travel restrictions should be lifted for countries listed in the recommendation, with this list being reviewed and, as the case may be, updated every two weeks.”

The list of safe countries now provisionally includes China, although certain conditions have to be met, but it does not include the US, Brazil, India or Russia.

The other countries on the safe list are: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.

The UK is not affected by the travel restrictions.

Americans planning to travel to Europe will be hugely disappointed the US has not made the list, but EU member states clearly decided the resurgence of the virus across the Atlantic, plus the huge number of cases and deaths meant the risk was still too high.

The US has seen over 2.5 million cases and suffered over 125,000 deaths, roughly a quarter of the global total. In recent days there has been a resurgence of Covid-19 cases in many states across the country.

China has also been provisionally approved as the 15th name on the list, but travel will only be allowed if Beijing also allows in EU travellers.

Reciprocity is a condition for all countries on the list.

But the final decision ultimately rests with member states because while the list has been agreed upon at a political level it is not legally binding. Border control remains a national competence and not something that is decided at EU level. 

The EU states: “A Member State should not decide to lift the travel restrictions for non-listed third countries before this has been decided in a coordinated manner.”

The list will be reviewed every two weeks and adjusted depending on the latest coronavirus spread in each country.

Countries were included on the safe list if the coronavirus outbreak in the country was judged to be the same or better than that EU average. The bar was fixed at 16 cases per 100,000 people over the last two weeks.

The EU and Schengen area countries (Switzerland, Norway and Iceland) lifted border controls for EU citizens travelling inside the bloc on June 15th and from July 1st will open their external borders.

UK nationals are treated in the same way as EU citizens until the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December so can travel freely to Europe, although they may to have to enter quarantine on their return.

In 2016, some 12 million Americans travelled to Europe with Italy, France, Germany and Spain among the most popular destinations.

One study in Italy said the loss of American tourists would mean a loss of €1.8 billion in revenue.

Countries like France and Germany have along with the Commission stressed the need for a “common and coordinated approach” and don't want individual states going it alone.

The Commission has also made it clear the continued restrictions after July 1st wouldn't apply to EU nationals, those from Schengen area countries (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland) or non-EU nationals and family members who have their main residence in Europe “regardless of whether or not they are returning home”.

The Council's statement said: “For countries where travel restrictions continue to apply, the following categories of people should be exempted from the restrictions:

  • EU citizens and their family members
  • long-term EU residents and their family members
  • travellers with an essential function or need

The list needed a “qualified majority” of EU countries to be passed, meaning 15 EU countries representing 65% of the population had to agree to it.

As Reuters reports The move is aimed at supporting the EU travel industry and tourist destinations, particularly countries in southern Europe hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

What happens now?

The EU states: “This list of third countries should be reviewed every two weeks and may be updated by the Council, as the case may be, after close consultations with the Commission and the relevant EU agencies and services following an overall assessment based on the criteria above.”

“Travel restrictions may be totally or partially lifted or reintroduced for a specific third country already listed according to changes in some of the conditions and, as a consequence, in the assessment of the epidemiological situation. If the situation in a listed third country worsens quickly, rapid decision-making should be applied.”

Member comments

  1. If you’re already in the EEA (such as Ireland or UK) but not a foreign national and no residency, are you able to move between countries now if you don’t have residency?

  2. I’m an American residing in the U.S. and have tickets to fly on Air France next week from Berlin to Paris, which I will not be allowed to do under the new EU adopted regulations. I am now in the U.S. Does anyone know what Air France’s policy is on either refunding the cost of my ticket or giving me a credit or voucher, and if the latter, how long will I have to use it? No one has been able to find this out. Many thanks!

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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