On Friday, European Union countries agreed to relax travel restrictions for the summer, allowing fully vaccinated tourists to skip inspections and quarantines and expanding the list of EU territories where it is safe to travel.
According to current EU President Portugal, ambassadors from the 27 EU member states supported a modified European Commission proposal that those who have been fully vaccinated for 14 days should be able to travel freely from one EU country to another.
Other travelers should be subjected to restrictions based on the extent to which COVID-19 infections are under control in their home country. Just over a quarter of EU people have received all of their vaccines.
The updated standards come as the EU prepares to roll out COVID-19 certificates, which will show if a person has been vaccinated, has immunity due to prior infection, or has had a recent negative test. The system is expected to be operational by July 1, while some countries will begin issuing certificates sooner.
As vaccination rates rise, the EU will relax the traffic light color coding used to signify the relative safety of different EU areas. In 14 days, “green” zones must have fewer than 25 instances per 100,000 people, with less than 4% of positive tests. If the positive rate is less than 1%, that number will grow to 50 or 75.
The boundaries for the next level, “orange,” will likewise increase. There should be no limits for travel from a green zone; from orange – the possibility of a test; from red – the possibility of quarantine; and from “dark red” – non-essential travel should be avoided.
Children aged 12 and above could be tested, but only if an adult accompanying them was also required to quarantine. EU member states will also be able to impose an “emergency brake” that will prevent all travelers from entering a region where more contagious strains of the disease have been detected.
Non-EU members of the open-border Schengen zone – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland – are also included by the scheme, but not former EU member Britain. Other countries have a similar traffic light system, with eight on the green list, but not Britain, which is being kept off for the time being due to the widespread prevalence of the Delta version of the coronavirus there.
Visitors from other countries are welcome as well, as long as they can show proof of vaccination. Individual EU countries, on the other hand, are responsible for their own border policies, so they can continue to adopt their own laws.