EU in vaccine passport talks with US but not UK
The EU is at an advanced stage of talks with the US over mutually recognising vaccine passports to boost transatlantic tourism this summer, but Brussels is yet to open discussions with the British government.
A spokesperson for the European commission said that while discussions had been held with US officials and the secretary of homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas, there were “no contacts at present with the UK”.
Boris Johnson has said he wants to allow foreign travel by 17 May and the government is considering introducing vaccine passports for British holidaymakers in line with that target.
But a commission spokesperson said talks had not yet opened between Brussels and London on how to ensure mutual recognition of either side’s documents proving vaccination or a recent negative coronavirus test.
It is understood technical talks are under way with individual EU member states such as Greece. A UK government spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile the European commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, offered fresh hope for US residents of a summer holiday in the EU.
She suggested in an interview with the New York Times that Americans who were fully vaccinated would be able to visit Europe, in what would be a change of policy on non-essential travel.
“The Americans, as far as I can see, use European Medicines Agency-approved vaccines,” she said. “This will enable free movement and travel to the European Union. Because one thing is clear: all 27 member states will accept, unconditionally, all those who are vaccinated with vaccines that are approved by EMA.”
She said the travel situation would still depend “on the epidemiological situation, but the situation is improving in the United States, as it is, hopefully, also improving in the European Union”.
The EU adopted tough restrictions on travel into the bloc’s 27 member states last year. Non-essential trips are permitted only from Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.
To qualify for the list, countries must have recorded no more than 25 new Covid cases per 100,000 people over the past 14 days and no more than 4% of tests carried out in the previous week returning positive.
The latest UK statistics, dated 20 April, show 24.7 cases per 100,000 across a seven-day period. The list of countries exempt from the EU measures is reviewed every two weeks.
It has been suggested that the EU’s rules could change in time for summer to also take into account vaccination coverage.
Last week EU diplomats opened a discussion as to what criteria could be used beyond incidence rate to allow Europe’s tourism hotspots to enjoy a summer season.
It was suggested by the commission that the vaccination rates in several parts of the world “support updating the approach for the safe lifting of restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU”.
While a number of northern EU member states are cautious about reopening to tourists, ministers in Spain and Greece, among others, have been outspoken about the needs of their tourism sectors.
Greece has said it will open its borders to travellers from the US from Monday, provided they show proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test.
Spain’s tourism minister, Fernando Valdés, said last week that his country would be ready for mass tourism this summer.
He told Sky News: “We are desperate to welcome you this summer. “I think we will be ready here in Spain and we also think that things on the vaccination scheme of the UK are going pretty well. So, hopefully we will be seeing this summer the restart of holidays.”
The European commissioner leading the EU’s vaccine taskforce, Thierry Breton, told the Guardian this month that he was confident the bloc would hit its target of vaccinating 70% of adults by the end of the summer, permitting it “an almost normal tourist season”.