The global rollout of the vaccines is now well underway – and that means countries all over the world are considering how to reopen their economies. Several nations have already set up their own ‘vaccine passport’ schemes that allow citizens to prove they have had the jab to gain access to certain services, like dining out, going to the gym or attending big public gatherings. And now the EU has confirmed it will launch its own ‘digital green pass’, which will allow those who have received the jab to travel more easily within the continent.
As of yesterday, the EU Commission has officially set in motion the process of allowing in vaccinated travellers from outside the bloc as well. It has now recommended loosening restrictions on non-essential travel from all third-party countries as early as June – as long as visitors can prove they have had the last dose of an EU-approved vaccine.
Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said in a Tweet yesterday: ‘Time to revive EU tourism industry and for cross-border friendships to rekindle.’ The plans are set to be fleshed out at talks today and will include an ‘emergency brake’ allowing member states to curb travel in response to new variants.
Back in March, the bloc announced plans for a ‘vaccine pass for all EU citizens’, as well as travellers from Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland (the four European Free Trade Association countries). The aim of the scheme is to allow anyone who has been vaccinated against Covid-19, has recently tested negative or has recovered from the virus to travel more freely across European borders. Like the plans to allow in travellers from outside the EU, it is hoped the scheme will be in place in time for the summer tourist season.
The European Commission’s proposal for the ‘digital green pass’ states that if any of the EU’s 27 member states allow vaccinated travellers from a particular country to skip restrictions such as testing or quarantine, they must also do so for travellers from all other countries within the bloc.
It’s a clear sign that countries all over the world are likely to take a coordinated approach when it comes to rebooting their flagging tourism industries – even though certain European countries are said to have clashed over the proposals.
And it may also apply to countries that aren’t members of the European Union. The EU Commission has said that it will work with the World Health Organisation to expand the scheme to other nations. The official spokesperson for British prime minister Boris Johnson added that the UK would discuss collaborating with the EU on its new ‘vaccine passport’ plans.
Full details of the scheme will be released over the coming weeks, and the ‘passports’ are unlikely to be launched until June at the earliest. But the fact that an overseas trip might be possible again later this year is – finally! – the positive travel news we all needed to hear right now.
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