EU unveils plans for overseas tourists to return

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Visitors enjoy the beaches in Malaga, Spain

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The EU Commission has recommended easing restrictions on non-essential travel from overseas.

Under the plans, anyone who has received the last dose of an EU-approved vaccine at least two weeks beforehand will be permitted to travel.

“Time to revive EU tourism industry and for cross-border friendships to rekindle – safely,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted.

The EU currently only allows non-essential travel from seven countries.

But the proposals will also contain an “emergency brake” allowing member states to limit travel quickly in response to new variants or a deteriorating health situation in non-EU countries. This would be reviewed every two weeks.

Discussions on the plans will begin on Tuesday.

The EU has already announced plans for a digital certificate, which would cover anyone who is either vaccinated against Covid-19, has a negative test or has recently recovered.

What do the proposals say?

Member states will be able to accept tourists from outside the EU if they have received an approved jab, the European Commission said on Monday, although this could be extended for vaccines that have completed the WHO emergency use listing process.

Countries that decide negative Covid tests or quarantine are not required for vaccinated people inside their country must also extend these exceptions to non-EU travellers, the EU Commission said.

In addition, children who have not been able to receive a vaccine should be able to travel with their parents as long as they present a negative test, although further testing may be required on arrival.

Until the EU-wide pass, known as the digital green certificate, is launched, countries “should be able to accept certificates from non-EU countries based on national law”, the European Commission added.

The plans will increase also the threshold number of cases in countries from which all travel is allowed – subject to quarantine or testing – from 25 infections per 100,000 people to 100. This, the proposals note, is still far below the EU average of more than 420 per 100,000.

The measures will not affect current rules on essential travel or EU citizens and long-term residents and their families.

What is the EU’s certificate?

Last week, European lawmakers approved plans for an EU-wide digital pass to restart travel in time for the summer holidays.

Key to the certificate is a QR code – a machine-readable graphic code made up of black and white squares – that contains personal data and the EU’s Commission says it will be safe and secure. It is working with the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure the certificate is recognised beyond Europe.

The 27 member states also want to include non-EU countries such as Norway, Iceland and Switzerland, with officials saying earlier this week that vaccinated travellers from the US may also be able to visit Europe this summer.

However, practical concerns remain, including questions over how long immunity lasts after an infection and whether further jabs will be needed amid the rapid spread of more contagious Covid variants.

Other issues include what data would be used to prove an individual was not infected with coronavirus and privacy concerns.

A number of countries have already begun unveiling their own passes as they reopen.

In Denmark, the Coronapas app is being used to allow customers who have been vaccinated or recovered from an infection to enter bars, restaurants and museums.

A similar scheme in Israel, which has one of the highest levels of vaccinations in the world, permits users to access hotels, gyms and theatres. The “Green pass” has also created travel opportunities for Israeli citizens, following deals with Greece and Cyprus.

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