Just in time for summer travel, the European Union plans to reopen borders to fully vaccinated foreign visitors, no matter where in the world they are from.
According to news reports, that could happen as early as June. Currently, only visitors from countries with low Covid-19 infection rates, like New Zealand and South Korea, are being admitted.
The EU's executive branch, the European Commission, released a proposal today for member states to lift restrictions on nonessential travel for any international visitor who has received the last recommended dose of an EU-authorized vaccine (at the moment, those are made by Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johson).
Individual countries could still choose to maintain stricter entry requirements. For example, a government could opt to require Covid-19 testing in addition to proof of vaccination. Ultimately, each member of the 27-nation EU bloc is responsible for controlling its own borders.
To counter the spread of coronavirus variants, the commission suggests creating an "emergency brake" that will allow the bloc to "urgently and temporarily" suspend all inbound travel from residents of any non-EU country experiencing a sudden worsening of its epidemiological situation.
EU member states will consider the commission's proposal in meetings this week.
If the plan is approved, each European government in the body will need to devise a digital certification program allowing travelers to upload proof of vaccination for use at airports and border crossings.
That will take some time. So the commission's proposal states that until the digital certification systems are operational, EU countries can choose to accept proof of vaccine issued by other nations.
The news comes more than a year after the EU imposed a ban on nonessential travel from outside the bloc's borders, save for a few countries with low coronavirus rates.
The New York Times reports that southern European countries that depend on summer tourism, led by Greece, have been clamoring in recent months to reopen the continent to vaccinated Americans and other foreign tourists.
Many EU nations, including Greece, France, and Spain, have already announced plans to welcome vaccinated visitors without quarantine. (Testing may still be required by some governments.)
But today's plan provides a road map for the entire region.
After a coronavirus surge this spring led to the return of lockdowns in many parts of Europe, an accelerated vaccination effort across the continent has inspired hopes that more restrictions will be lifted, more businesses will reopen, and more tourists will be able to come back—and soon.
Pictured at top: the beach at Monterosso al Mare in Italy