EU proposal could reopen borders by June

BRUSSELS – In an announcement sure to be greeted by travelers around the world, EU officials on Monday proposals for easing restrictions to visit the bloc of 27 nations as vaccination campaigns across the continent gain momentum.

Travel to the EU is now extremely limited, except for a handful of countries with low infection rates. But as the summer season approaches, the European Commission hopes the new recommendations will help to significantly expand that list.

“The Commission proposes to allow entry into the EU for non-essential reasons not only for all people coming from countries where the epidemiological situation is good, but also for all people who have received the last recommended dose of ‘an EU-authorized vaccine,’ said the EU’s executive body. noted.

Coronavirus vaccines authorized by the European Medicines Agency, the block’s medicines regulator, include Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. The agency has yet to approve any vaccines from Russia or China, but is looking at data from the Russian Sputnik V vaccine.

EU officials believe that the COVID-19 vaccination campaigns will soon be a turning point in the fight against the deadly virus, especially within the bloc and the Schengen area without borders. His proposal will be discussed with member state ambassadors this week, and the European Commission hopes it can enter into force by June.

EU countries could also individually decide to accept travelers immunized with vaccines listed by the World Health Organization for emergency use. The United Nations health agency has approved the same four vaccines as the European health agency, and it is expected to make a decision on China’s Sinopharm vaccine soon.

Commission spokesperson Adalbert Jahnz said fully vaccinated travelers from outside the EU should be allowed to visit Europe, but insisted that the aim of the proposal no It’s not to exempt them from testing or quarantines upon arrival.

“It still remains largely in the hands of member states,” he said.

The committee also proposed to raise the threshold of new cases of coronavirus which is used to determine the countries from which all travel should be permitted.

“Non-essential travel, regardless of individual vaccination status, is currently allowed from seven countries with good epidemiological status,” he said, proposing to increase the cumulative rate of coronavirus infection in 14 days per 100,000 inhabitants from 25 to 100.

“This remains considerably lower than the current EU average, which is above 420,” he said.

It was not clear which countries would actually make the cut, but an EU official who was not authorized to be cited by name because the proposal has yet to be passed said Israel would definitely be on. the list.

“The United Kingdom, question mark; in the United States, at the moment, not quite, ”he said. “But we are seeing how quickly the situation in the United States is changing, especially for the vaccination rate.

In the event infection rates deteriorate in a non-EU country, the committee has proposed an ’emergency brake’ to prevent dangerous viral variants from entering the block through rapid travel limits adopted.

EU officials and countries are also talking about introducing COVID-19 Certificates aimed at making it easier to get around the region this summer. The documents, sometimes referred to as coronavirus passports or green certificates, would be issued to EU residents who can prove they have been vaccinated or prove they have recovered from COVID-19.

“Until the digital green certificate is operational, member states should be able to accept certificates from non-EU countries,” the committee said, adding that children excluded from vaccination should be able to travel with their parents. vaccinated if they provide a negative certificate. PCR test.

Hungary edged out its EU counterparts on Saturday, easing several COVID-19 restrictions for people with government-issued immunity cards. The cards were given to those who received a dose of the vaccine or to those who recovered from COVID-19.

People with plastic cards could enter indoor dining rooms, hotels, theaters, cinemas, spas, gymnasiums, libraries, museums and other places of recreation in Hungary.

The whole issue of COVID-19 passports is onerous in many parts of the world, with critics claiming they discriminate against people in poorer countries or young people who do not have access to vaccines in many countries. The Hungarian government has gone ahead with its own certificates as it has inoculated its people with a variety of vaccines, including vaccines from China and Russia that have not been approved by the EMA.

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