The European Commission has reached a decision whereby all member states are to accept the digital covid-19 certificate also known as “vaccine passport,” a document which will show whether people have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, and refrain from imposing additional travel measures such as quarantines to its citizens,
The new document, valid for 12 months, would allow free movement of tourists among the 27 European Union member countries this summer.
All European Union member states will accept the vaccine passport, although it will not be a prerequisite for free movement, according to a statement from the European Parliament.
Under the terms of the agreement, EU countries should not impose additional travel measures such as quarantines “unless they are necessary and proportionate to safeguard public health,” lawmakers said.
The vaccine passport will show whether people have been vaccinated against the coronavirus and if they’ve recently tested negative or recovered from covid-19 infection.
All European Union member countries must accept EU-approved vaccines under the deal, while it is up to each nation whether to allow the entry of travellers vaccinated with vaccines that haven’t yet been approved by the bloc’s drugs regulator.
The European Commission has also pledged to make at least €100 million ($122 million) available so “affordable and accessible testing” becomes more widely available.
Meanwhile, travellers from countries outside the European Union may soon have an easier way into the old continent's bloc, following an accord among EU ambassadors that fully vaccinated visitors should be allowed in. An agreement was also reached on the requirements for nations to be considered covid-19 safe and from which all tourists can travel, depending on their coronavirus and vaccination status. Under the existing criteria, the list includes only seven nations.
The EU imposed restrictions on nonessential travel last year to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The bloc's ambassadors said many of those restrictions should be eased, including permitting vacation travel by non-EU residents.
The European Council made up of EU nations will now recommend that member states ease some of the current restrictions for those who have been vaccinated, European Commission spokesperson Christian Wigand said. He didn't give a precise date for when the borders will reopen since EU countries have yet to formally approve the measures.
The council should also soon expand the list of non-EU countries with a good epidemiological situation from where travel is permitted, said Wigand. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control is to advise on the list.
The US Travel Association praised the EU's move and urged the US government to adopt a similar approach to allowing international tourism to resume.
The US has been a leader in many aspects of managing the pandemic but is behind our global competitors in pursuing an international economic reopening, Roger Dow, the trade group's president and CEO, said. The millions of travel-related US jobs that were lost to the pandemic won't come back on the strength of domestic travel alone, so identifying the path to restarting international visitation is essential to an overall economic recovery.
The European Commission proposed entry should be granted to individuals fully vaccinated with EU-authorized shots. Coronavirus vaccines authorized by the European Medicines Agency, the bloc's drug regulator, include the ones made by Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.
The executive commission also proposed permitting EU member nations to decide individually whether to allow travellers immunized with vaccines approved by the World Health Organization for emergency use, which include the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine.
Wigand said ambassadors also agreed on an emergency brake mechanism designed to stop dangerous virus variants from entering EU nations through quickly enacted travel limits if the infection situation deteriorates in a non-EU country.
Once the non-binding measures are approved, EU countries will keep the possibility to impose restrictive measures on tourists such as PCR tests or quarantines.
EU nations have been struggling throughout the pandemic to prop up their vital tourism industries and hope to recover some income over the peak summer season.
Greece, which is heavily reliant on tourism, has already lifted quarantine restrictions for the US, Britain, Israel, and other non-EU countries as negotiations between governments and EU lawmakers to introduce covid-19 certificates aimed at facilitating travel across the region this summer continue. A deal is required by end of the month to ensure the system will be up and running by the end of June.
Some non-EU countries, including Israel, have launched their own COVID-19 travel documents. Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, people wanting to travel can demonstrate they have received both vaccine doses via a National Health Service (NHS) app.