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Fully vaccinated Britons could still be told to quarantine at their EU holiday destination due to concerns over the Covid variant first detected in India and a failure to allow Europeans to visit Britain freely, according to a policy agreed in Brussels.
Representatives of the 27 member states provisionally approved a change of policy on Wednesday under which anyone from a non-EU country could travel if they are able to prove they have been fully vaccinated.
Should a European country waive the need for tests and quarantine for those travelling from a fellow EU member state, it was also agreed that this burden should be lifted for those coming from so-called third countries, such as the UK, who have been inoculated.
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, had paved the way for the change of policy last month when she told the New York Times that fully vaccinated US citizens would be able to travel even though the infection rate remains high in the US.
But the full unpublished text of the agreement, seen by the Guardian and awaiting approval of ministers, still contains a significant dual threat to British hopes of a summer holiday in a European tourist destination.
The agreed text says that EU member states are to take into account whether the government of a non-EU country is permitting their citizens entry without the need to quarantine, or an obligation to take PCR tests.
As it stands, every EU country apart from Portugal is on the UK government’s amber list. Those coming from a country on the amber list must quarantine at the place they are staying for 10 days and take a Covid-19 test on or before day two and on or after day eight.
The EU’s new policy suggests that UK travellers could face similar constraints should there not be an update of the government’s policy. It reads: “Where member states decide to lift restrictions for travellers in possession of a valid proof of a Covid-19 vaccination, member states should on a case-by-case basis take into account reciprocity granted to the EU+ area.”
The text also suggests EU member states can use an “emergency brake” to prevent travel from a country where a variant of concern has emerged that would block unvaccinated travellers and oblige the inoculated to quarantine and take tests.
The EU imposed strict measures last year to contain Covid-19 outbreaks but those countries highly dependent on tourism have been pushing for the restrictions to be eased.
As well as agreeing on a policy for the fully vaccinated, the 27 member states have eased the criteria for nations to be considered a safe country.
Currently only Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand are on a list allowing for non-essential travel into the EU. But the EU has agreed to increase the threshold of 14-day cumulative Covid-19 case notification rate from 25 to 100.
The UK’s infection rate will be well within the new threshold due to the success of the vaccination programme unlike the US.
But when EU ambassadors meet on Friday to agree on the countries to be added to the so-called white list, there remains the risk that UK travellers who are not vaccinated could still be blocked due to concerns over the B.1.617.2 Covid variant on the rise in parts of Britain.
According to the text, it has been agreed that where there has been a swift worsening of the level of infection, or where “variants of concern” are identified, a “temporary restriction on all travel” should be applied.
This would not apply to fully vaccinated holidaymakers from the UK, but they would instead be subject to quarantine and testing obligations under the terms of the agreement “even if they have received the last recommended dose” of an authorised vaccine.
During Wednesday’s meeting, the Greek government pushed for a further liberalisation of the rules to boost tourism, it is understood, but they failed to win support for their ideas.
The text agreed by the ambassadors is a recommendation only and competence over borders remains with national governments, however.
In April, Greece’s civil aviation authority announced the lifting of a seven-day mandatory quarantine for arriving travellers who are “permanent residents of European Union member states, the Schengen area, the United Kingdom, the United States, Israel, Serbia and the United Arab Emirates”.
The measure relates to “travellers who have received both doses of the vaccine” or for those who “are negative for the virus and have a negative test for coronavirus less than 72 hours old”.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: British tourists to EU may have to quarantine even if vaccinated | Europe