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More European destinations setting out plans for selective border openings

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • The European Commission is urging EU member states to allow vaccinated travellers in from certain countries
  • Eligible travellers will be those with a Digital Green Certificate or other approved certificate
  • Some European countries, including France, are already opening their borders to non-EU visitors

The European Commission (EC) is recommending that EU member states open their borders to allow vaccinated travellers to enter from certain countries based on the “developments in the epidemiological situation worldwide.” Meanwhile, some European countries are already relaxing international travel restrictions of their own accord.

Roughly half a dozen on the list with the US a likely next addition

The EC recommends letting in travellers from countries with relatively low COVID infection rates and also those “who have received the last recommended dose of an EU-authorised vaccine” at least 14 days before arrival in Europe. The EC proposes that this could also be expanded to people who have received other vaccines on the WHO emergency list.

The Digital Green Certificate – or other certificates approved by the EC – will be the foundation for (selectively) opened borders; non-EU travellers will be able to present this certificate as proof of eligibility to enter. The Digital Green Certificate should be functional sometime in June. Until then, the EC says that certificates from other countries should be enough to allow travellers in “based on national law, taking into account the ability to verify the authenticity, validity and integrity of the certificate and whether it contains all relevant data.”

Because the global COVID pandemic remains fluid – especially given new variants circulating – the EC also proposes a new “emergency brake mechanism” that would allow EU countries to quickly halt all travel from badly affected countries on a temporary basis.

The fluidity of the pandemic means that the list of countries from which travellers will be permitted to enter will be somewhat dynamic and will be updated at least every two weeks. For now, the EC recommends that travel bans be lifted for people from the following countries:

  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Rwanda
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Thailand
  • China, subject to confirmation of reciprocity

It is anticipated that more European countries will soon allow vaccinated Americans in as well; currently these are the countries to which Americans are permitted to travel.

Individual countries within the EU speeding ahead

Many European countries have already relaxed – or will imminently relax – international travel restrictions on their own terms in an effort to boost tourism during the crucial summer months. The following list does not include details on what conditions travellers must meet to be able to enter a country – please consult governmental websites for the latest information on those and note that the following information is correct as of 10 May.

  • France’s borders are open to arrivals from other European countries as well as Australia, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the UK. Vaccinated Americans will be allowed in on 9 June.
  • The UK is allowing arrivals from 12 countries on its “Green List” 17 May.
  • Greece is allowing international tourists in, including Americans. Travellers may arrive from the European Union, New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, Thailand, Rwanda, Singapore, the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Serbia, and the United Arab Emirates without needing to quarantine.
  • Italy will open up soon to travellers who will not need to quarantine provided they show they are COVID-negative or vaccinated.
  • Malta is open to travellers from many countries on its “Amber” list and plans to open up more widely in June.
  • Spain hopes to open 31 May.
  • Iceland, Cyprus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, and Estonia are all open to certain degrees.

Vaccination rollouts a key to rebooting mobility

The EC’s recommendation, as well as European countries’ individual decisions, underlines that a recovery of global tourism and international education depends on people becoming fully vaccinated. If the leading vaccines prove effective at protecting travellers against variants of concern, there is hope for a better summer for schools and universities across Europe as quarantine requirements are dropped in favour of vaccine passports.

The extent of the recovery will hinge to some degree on the ability of people in non-EU emerging markets to be vaccinated. The New York Times Vaccination Tracker reveals just how uneven vaccination rollouts have been across the world to date.

Looking at the leading study abroad destinations on the Vaccination Tracker, some currently have a more appealing vaccination profile than others – and surveys show that students are watching this factor closely. Canada (3.3% fully vaccinated) is currently far behind similarly wealthy countries such as the US (34%) and the UK (26%). France and Italy are currently at 12% fully vaccinated while Germany and Ireland are at 10%.

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