US tourists may soon be allowed to travel more freely in Europe

The European Union is expected to recommend on Friday lifting the ban on non-essential travel for visitors from the United States, opening up to American tourists just in time for the summer season, which is crucial to the economy of many members of the bloc. .

EU country ambassadors on Wednesday indicated their support for adding the United States to the list of countries considered epidemiologically safe, a bloc official confirmed. The decision is expected to be formally adopted on Friday and enter into force immediately.

In principle, all travelers from countries on the safe country list, and not just citizens or residents, would be allowed to enter the block for non-essential reasons, such as tourism or visiting family, even if they are not vaccinated, with no other restrictions. The European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, has recommended that a PCR test be required, but ultimately it is up to national governments to set specific rules, including any need for quarantine.

This decision is part of a larger attempt to restore tourist flows inside and outside the European Union. Travel from outside the bloc was all but suspended last year to limit the spread of the coronavirus, except for a handful of countries that met specific criteria, such as low infection rates, the number of tests performed and their overall response to Covid-19.

Until today, the list, which has been regularly updated, contained a relatively small number of countries, including Australia, Japan and South Korea. China has met the quantitative criteria, but the lifting of entry restrictions is subject to reciprocity. Albania, Lebanon, North Macedonia, Serbia and Taiwan would also be added to the list, and the reciprocity requirement dropped for the Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macao.

The European Commission recommended last month that all travelers from third countries who have been fully vaccinated with vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency or the World Health Organization be allowed entry without restrictions, a change in policy that was first reported by The New York Times.

The relaxation of travel measures has been enabled by the rapid pace of vaccination in the United States and the acceleration of the vaccination campaign in Europe, and reinforced by advanced discussions between the authorities on how to return the certificates. vaccination certificates acceptable as proof of visitor immunity.

But health policy in the European Union is ultimately the responsibility of national member governments, so each country has the right to further tailor travel measures, including possibly adding more stringent requirements, whatever Friday’s decision.

Some countries heavily dependent on tourism, such as Greece and Spain, did not wait for a continent-wide policy and decided in March to reopen to outside travelers.

The new opening of the European Union comes as the bloc finalizes work on a Covid certificate system, which is expected to become operational on July 1. Seven member countries started issuing and accepting the certificate earlier than expected earlier this month. The document indicates whether people have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, cured of an illness, or tested negative in the past 72 hours, and it would potentially allow those who meet any of the three criteria to move freely within them. 27 member countries.

Travelers coming from outside the bloc would have the option of obtaining a Covid certificate from an EU country, the European Commission has said. This would facilitate travel between the different countries within the bloc, but would not be a prerequisite for entry into the European Union.

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