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EUROPEAN UNION

EU opens door to return of American tourists after adding US to safe list

EU member states paved the way for the return of American tourists on Wednesday when they agreed to add the US to its "white list" of countries with low Covid-19 rates, according to AFP.

EU opens door to return of American tourists after adding US to safe list
EU opens door to return of American tourists 'after adding US to safe list'. Photo: Jason Redmond / AFP

Ambassadors for the 27 member states gave the green light to the return of tourists from the US – including those who have not been vaccinated, AFP claimed, citing officials and diplomats.

A source at the European Council would not confirm that the US will be added to the white list but said we can expect an announcement on Friday.

“The review of the list of third countries for which travel restrictions should be gradually lifted is taking place this week, with an updated list expected to be presented for formal adoption on Friday,” the source said.

But the list is only a recommendation with countries deciding at a national level what their entry policy is when it comes to borders.

EU member states can still choose to require travellers from these areas to undergo Covid-19 testing or to observe periods in quarantine, but once the new list is approved the recommendation is that they should be exempted from a blanket travel ban.

It was not immediately clear whether individual countries would follow the lead of the EU, with many already having imposed their own rules on travellers from the US.

France, for example, recently opened travel from the US to those arrivals who had been fully vaccinated.

Switzerland, while not a member of the EU, has indicated it will follow EU policy with regard to entry from people arriving from outside the bloc. 

Because of the pandemic, the EU closed its external borders in March 2020 for non-essential travel, and for the past year has drawn up a regularly updated list of non-member states whose residents are allowed to travel to Europe.

As well as the US, several other countries were added to the list: Albania, Lebanon, North Macedonia, Serbia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao.

The safe list already included Japan, Australia, Israel, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.

Countries can be included if they have recorded fewer than 75 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 inhabitants over the past 14 days. In the United States this rate is 73.9, according to figures from the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC).

News that the United States is to be added to the approved list came one day after Brussels and Washington renewed friendlier ties at a summit between President Joe Biden and EU chiefs Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Spain to allow unvaccinated non-EU tourists to enter ‘in matter of days’

Spain’s Tourism Minister on Thursday announced that “in a matter of days” unvaccinated third-country nationals such as Britons and Americans will be able to travel to Spain for a holiday with proof of a negative Covid-19 test. 

Spain to allow unvaccinated non-EU tourists to enter 'in matter of days'

Spanish Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto on Thursday May 19th confirmed that it won’t be long before unvaccinated non-EU/Schengen nationals will be allowed to travel to Spain for non-essential reasons such as tourism, visiting friends or family or spending time in a second home in Spain. 

“It’s a matter of days before we eliminate a restriction that could be discouraging tourists from outside the European Union from visiting us,” Reyes told Spanish radio station Onda Cero.

“And that is that we are going to stop requiring the vaccination certificate and allow them to enter with a negative test”. 

Maroto then stated that this would have to be a PDIA test, which in Spain refers to both PCR and antigen tests. If it’s a negative PCR or similar test (NAAT-type test) it must have been issued less than 72 hours prior to arrival in Spain, or if it’s a negative antigen test, less than 24 hours before arriving in Spain.

The surprise announcement comes just days after Spanish health authorities decided to extend the ban on non-essential travel for unvaccinated non-EU holidaymakers until June 15th

Spain’s current Covid-19 travel restrictions only allow in third-country tourists such as Britons, Americans or Indians who have been fully vaccinated (including a booster shot if initial vaccination was more than nine months before travel) and those who have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months. 

But for practically the entirety of the pandemic, unvaccinated non-EU tourists have been unable to travel to Spain, with only exceptional reasons for travel allowed. 

Reyes’ comments came about when asked by the Onda Cero interviewer when all of Spain’s Covid-19 travel restrictions will be lifted, as there are still other measures in places such as mask wearing on public transport (including planes) and proof of vaccination, testing or recovery.

“There’s a degree of safety with travel that we have to preserve. We’re still co-existing with the pandemic but that doesn’t mean that we haven’t been gradually lifting restrictions,” Maroto argued.

The minister spoke of allowing unvaccinated non-EU holidaymakers in soon as being another way of boosting the country’s recovering tourism industry, adding that her ministry was putting the finishing touches to the legislation, which will be approved in the coming days. 

A number of EU/Schengen countries have already lifted all their Covid-19 travel restrictions, including Greece and Austria most recently, as well as Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland.

Other countries such as France and Italy, Spain’s competitors in the tourism stakes, have also already allowed unvaccinated third-country tourists in with proof of a negative Covid-19 test for more than a month now.

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