Covid-19: EU Council agrees ‘safe’ countries travel list, with US left out

The Council of the European Union has agreed on June 30 to start lifting restrictions on non-essential travel into the bloc, recommending member states to remove restrictions on residents of 14 countries starting July 1.

The countries in the EU’s “safe” list were: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay. China could be added to the list, subject to reciprocity, the EU Council said in a statement.

Notable absences were the US, Brazil, Russia – the three countries with the largest numbers of confirmed Covid-19 cases.

“The criteria to determine the third countries for which the current travel restriction should be lifted cover in particular the epidemiological situation and containment measures, including physical distancing, as well as economic and social considerations,” the statement said.

Regarding the epidemiological situation, third countries listed should meet several criteria, including the number of new Covid-19 cases, stable or decreasing trend of new cases, as well as the third country’s overall response to Covid-19. Reciprocity would also be taken into account, the EU Council said.

The list was to be reviewed every two weeks and could updated after consultations with the European Commission and the relevant EU agencies and services following an overall assessment based on those criteria above.

Although the EU Council’s recommendation was not a legal binding instrument, only travel restrictions on the countries on the “safe” list could be lifted. The EU Council said that member states “should not decide to lift the travel restrictions for non-listed third countries before this has been decided in a coordinated manner.”

For third countries outside the “safe” list, exemptions from travel restrictions continued to apply to EU citizens and their family members, long-term EU residents and their family members, as well as travellers “with an essential function or need”.

This included residents of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican, which were to be considered as EU residents for the purpose of the recommendation. Schengen associated countries – Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland – were also part of this recommendation.

The UK was treated in the same way as EU citizens until the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31.

The EU put in place a temporary restriction of non-essential travel to the bloc on March 17, initially for a period of 30 days but extended on several occasions.

For the rest of The Sofia Globe’s continuing coverage of the Covid-19 situation in Bulgaria, please click here.

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The Sofia Globe staff

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