Updated: May 20, 2021 8:37:58 pm
The 27-member European Union (EU) decided that it will allow entry to fully vaccinated travellers from countries with low infection rates. Since March 2020, non-essential travel into the EU has been banned.
Earlier in March, the European Commission (EC) proposed to create a Digital Green Certificate to facilitate the safe and free movement of citizens within the EU.
How many people have been vaccinated in the EU?
As of May 19, over 202 million doses have been administered in the EU and 40 per cent of the adult population has received at least one dose. Further, the EC has secured contracts with six vaccine developers for the delivery of a total of 2.6 billion doses. So far, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has authorised the use of four vaccines manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Janssen and Moderna.
What are the new rules for fully vaccinated travellers?
Before the new rules were announced, the EU allowed non-essential travel only from seven countries – Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Thailand, Israel, Rwanda and China (subject to reciprocity from Beijing).
With the new rules, the EU has also relaxed the ability of a country to be green listed, earlier a country had to report no more than 25 infections per 100,000 people over two weeks to be green listed. Now the limit has been increased to 75 infections per 100,000.
Therefore, this still does not mean that fully vaccinated individuals from India will be able to travel to the EU, given that the infection rate in the country is roughly 150 infections per 100,000 people.
In May, the commission proposed that non-essential travel to the EU be allowed for those who have received the recommended number of doses of an EU-authorised vaccine. The relaxation could also be extended to vaccines that are approved by the WHO through their emergency use listing process.
The proposal is based on scientific advice that vaccination “considerably” helps to break the transmission of infection. “Member States should allow travel into the EU of those people who have received, at least 14 days before arrival, the last recommended dose of a vaccine having received marketing authorisation,” the commission said earlier this month.
Significantly, the EU still has the “emergency brake option” that gives it control to impose more restrictive conditions in case a new variant emerges.
What is accepted as proof of vaccination?
For travellers from the EU, the Digital Green Certificate will be accepted. A Digital Green Certificate is proof that a person has either been vaccinated against COVID-19, has received a negative test result or has recovered from COVID-19. The key features of the certificate are that it will be in digital or paper format complete with a QR code and will be free of charge.
The certificate can be issued by authorities, including hospitals, testing centres and health authorities. Once the proposal for digital certificates is finalised, it will be accepted in all EU countries and will help to ensure that the restrictions imposed in different areas within the EU can be lifted in a coordinated manner. All EU citizens or third-country nationals who are legally staying in the EU will be able to use these digital certificates and thereby will be exempted from free movement restrictions.
For non-EU travellers, certificates based on national law will be accepted as proof of vaccination. But it is not clear how certificates from non-EU countries will be checked and verified.
What about the entry of children?
Children who are excluded from vaccination can travel with their fully vaccinated parents provided they have a negative RT-PCR test report for COVID-19 taken not less than 72 hours before travel. Significantly, the US, EU and Singapore have now extended their vaccination campaigns to children between the ages of 12-15 years.
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