New EU rule will ban unvaccinated visitors from outside the bloc

The European Commission (EC), the executive branch of the European Union, issued a proposal today, recommending that all UE member-countries only allow in vaccinated, recovered, or essential travelers (like truck drivers) from outside of the European bloc, as of March 2022. Prospective visitors would need to prove that they were last vaccinated no more than nine months before entry, a move that essentially makes booster shots mandatory for most travelers. Under proposed new rules, visitors would need a booster shot every nine months.

The EU currently recommends that member states allow in travelers from a list of just over 20 countries with “a good epidemiological situation.” Travelers from these locations – which include Canada, New Zealand, and the UAE – are allowed into the EU with either a vaccine certificate, proof of recovery, or proof of a negative COVID-19 test. Under the new rules, this list would be done away with, and individual travelers allowed in based on their vaccination or recovery status alone. Currently, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved vaccines by Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Janssen.

Russia’s Sputnik-V is under review by the agency, as are shots by Sanofi-GSK and China’s Sinopharm.  Under the new proposal, the European Union would grant entry to travelers vaccinated with shots approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), but not the EMA. This would clear anyone jabbed with SInopharm, Sinovac, and two Indian-made vaccines to enter, as long as they provide a negative test result as well as proof of vaccination.

The Commission’s proposal will need to be cleared by the European Council, and if passed it will apply to every EU country except Ireland, which is not a member of the border-free Schengen Area. About 67% of EU citizens are currently vaccinated against COVID-19, though individual countries have seen different uptake rates. However, even in Ireland, which has the highest vaccination rate in the bloc at 93%, weekly new cases of the virus have tripled since the beginning of October, and the Irish government is considering fresh restrictions on daily life.

“It is evident that the pandemic is not yet over,” European Commissioner Didier Reynders said on Thursday, adding that “the travel rules need to take into account this volatile situation.”


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