The European Commission has proposed that people fully vaccinated against Covid-19 should be allowed entry to the EU, provided that the virus has been adequately suppressed in the country of departure.
The bloc’s executive leadership recommended on Monday that member states lift restrictions on “non-essential” travel for foreigners who have received all necessary doses of a jab authorized for use within the EU, at least 14 days before arrival. Brussels added that states could choose to extend the guideline to include all vaccines that have been signed off by the World Health Organization (WHO) for emergency use. Currently the European Medicines Agency has granted emergency approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson jabs.
The proposal also said that EU members that choose to waive Covid testing or quarantine requirements for vaccinated EU citizens should extend the policy to vaccinated travelers from outside the bloc.
However, travelers will only be allowed to enter the EU if they are coming from a country with a “good epidemiological situation.” The commission said that as the health crisis improves worldwide, it hopes to raise the threshold of new coronavirus cases used to determine which countries will be greenlit for cross-border travel. The list will be reviewed and updated every two weeks.
The commission said that until its ‘green certificate’ vaccine passport system is fully implemented, member states should accept proof of vaccination from non-EU countries, provided the documentation can be authenticated and contains all relevant data. Member states could create web portals that will allow foreign travelers to ask for recognition of a vaccine passport from a non-EU state, as well as request a green certificate once it comes into use.
In order to reduce the risk of new variants of the virus spreading through the bloc, the commission proposed an “emergency brake” mechanism that would allow member states to temporarily restrict all travel from affected foreign countries.
Children who are unvaccinated should be able to travel with their vaccinated parents, provided they tested negative for Covid-19 at least 72 hours before entering the bloc. In such cases, the commission recommended additional testing after arrival.
Discussions about the proposal are expected to begin this week. If the plan is adopted by the European Council, it will then need to be up to each member state to implement the measures.
The proposed travel policy comes a week after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen signaled that some form of vaccination certificate would soon be necessary for travelers coming from the US.
In March, the commission unveiled a plan that would create a “digital green certificate” to facilitate movement of citizens within the EU. The document is designed to be valid in all EU states.
Vaccine passports have been hailed by some authorities and experts as necessary in order to contain Covid-19 and reboot travel. Critics say such schemes are a vast government overreach. The Council of Europe passed a resolution in January saying that vaccination shouldn’t be mandatory and that those who didn’t receive the Covid-19 jabs “may not be discriminated against in any way,” but it was not legally binding for EU states.