The European Union has formally agreed a set of recommendations that will allow travelers from outside the bloc to visit EU countries, months after it shut its external borders in response to the outbreak of Covid-19.
As had been widely expected, the list of 14 countries does not include the United States, whose current Covid infection rate does not meet the criteria set by the EU for it to be considered a “safe country.”
The criteria requires that confirmed Covid cases in countries on the list are similar or below that of the EU’s per 100,000 citizens over the previous 14 days (starting from June 15).
Countries must also have a “stable or decreasing trend of new cases over this period in comparison to the previous 14 days,” while the EU will consider what measures countries are taking, such as contact tracing, and how reliable each nation’s data is.
The US has not only the highest number of reported coronavirus infections of any nation, currently 2,590,582, but also the highest number of deaths, at, 126,141, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
US infection rates will need to dramatically drop if Americans are to be allowed entry to European countries, just as the European tourism industry enters what are traditionally its peak months.
The recommendations are expected to come into force as early as July 1, however, it remains up to member states to decide exactly how the implement any changes in border policy.
Here are the answers to some key questions about the new rules:
Which countries are on the list?
The list of countries included in the recommendations are: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay.
China, where the virus originated, is not on the initial list of 14, but the EU is willing to place it on that list if the Chinese government reciprocates and allows EU citizens to enter its borders.
If your country isn’t on the list, are you officially banned from entering the EU?
Officially, no. The European Union does not have the control of any member state’s national borders. However, it is not expected that any country will deviate from the recommendations towards allowing in a larger group of nations and are more likely to restrict travel from countries on the list.
If your country isn’t on the list, but you’re a resident of a country that is on the list, can you still travel to the EU?
According to the guidance, “when deciding whether the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU applies to a third-country national, residence in a third country for which the restrictions on nonessential travel have been lifted should be the determining factor (and not nationality).”
Can you travel via another country to get around rules?
No, for the same reason as above. You will be judged by your place of residence, rather than where you are traveling from.
Will this be enforced by airlines and airports?
The EU council stressed that “member states remain responsible for implementing the content of the recommendation,” meaning this will vary from country to country. The best thing to do here is contact your national foreign office or embassy in the country you want to travel to.
How flexible are the recommendations?
This really depends on how you read it. The criteria and recommendations for implementation are very clear, but there is an annex in the recommendations which covers travelers with “an essential function or need”. These include everything from seasonal agricultural workers to diplomats. If you want to check for yourself, scroll to page 10 of this document
When will the list be updated?
The list expected to be reviewed every two weeks, however EU diplomats stressed to CNN that the criteria and methodology are “extremely unlikely” to change. This means that in order for a country to be deemed safe, its reported Covid figures need to be below that of the EU’s for the past 14 days.
How will this affect travelers from the UK?
Travelers from the UK are included in what the EU refers to as its “EU+ area,” and will be included if the UK’s governments decides it wants to align.
The “EU+ area” includes all member states of its so-called Schengen visa area (including Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania), as well as the four Schengen Associated States. It also includes Ireland and the United Kingdom if they decide to align.
Are there any exemptions?
Travelers in countries that did not make the list can still enter if they fall under the following exemptions: EU citizens or family members of an EU citizen; long-term EU residents or family members; those with an “essential function or need,” such as diplomats, healthcare workers or certain agricultural workers.
Are certain countries being excluded for political reasons?
EU officials had previously stressed to CNN that the decisions taken this week are not political, but based on science and aim only to protect citizens from the virus resurging across the continent. However, those same officials await the response from US President Donald Trump, who has previously attacked the EU on other issues such as trade and foreign policy.
This story has been updated to clarify the EU’s guidance on third country nationals.