The European Union is expected to sign off on plans for Americans who have had their coronavirus jabs to fly to Europe without having to quarantine or take a Covid test in advance.
The EU’s new plan would see member states adopting uniform entry requirements, meaning vaccinated holidaymakers from low-risk countries – such as the United States and the UK – would be able to enter its member states.
America is expected to be included on the EU’s expanded ‘green list’ of permitted holiday travel on Wednesday as the bloc’s ambassadors are set to confirm a European Commission proposal to lift restrictions on well-vaccinated nations.
Those without vaccinations will be required to present a negative Covid test or evidence of immunity, which can come from recently recovered from the virus.
For travelers from the UK, it is expected that member states will be recommended to prepare digital portals that will allow Britons to use the country’s health service app as a vaccine passport, the Daily Telegraph reported.
But the US has no such nation-wide app, and so vaccinated US travelers will likely be asked to input information from their vaccines cards before travel, although exactly how this would work in practice is currently unclear.
Last month, the head of the EU’s executive body told the New York Times that all American tourists who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 with jabs approved by the bloc’s Medicine’s Agency would be allowed entry.
At the time, it was reported that talks between authorities in the US and the EU to make vaccine certificates acceptable as proof of immunity for visitors were in an advanced stage.
‘The Americans, as far as I can see, use European Medicines Agency-approved vaccines,’ Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, told The Times in April.
‘This will enable free movement and the 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 E.M.A.,’ she added.
The European Medicines Agency has approved all three of the vaccines being rolled out in the US’ highly successful vaccination program – Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson shots.
As of May 16, 157.5 million people, or 47.1 percent of the US population, had been given at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in the United States, with 123.5 million – or 36.7 percent being fully vaccinated.
From Wednesday, these 123.5 million people are expected to be allowed to travel to countries within the European Union without the need to quarantine.
In the EU, meanwhile, at least 200 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been given as of Tuesday, according to AFP data tallying up official figures given by member states’ health services.
The milestone indicates that the EU should be on track to meet its goal of fully vaccinating 70 percent of adults – meaning roughly 255 million people out of its total 448 million population – by late July.
The data showed that Malta was leading the EU table, with 32.5 percent of its small population fully vaccinated, while Bulgaria was trailing badly, with just 6.1 percent inoculated.
Of the big EU countries, Germany has 11.1 percent fully vaccinated, France has 13.5 percent, Italy has 14.6 percent and Spain has 15.4 percent.
By way of comparison with other wealthy territories, Israel has 59 percent of its population inoculated with two doses, and Britain has 30 percent done.
According to The Times, diplomats from Europe’s tourism destinations – many of which have economies that greatly benefit from tourism – have been arguing for weeks that the EU’s criteria for determining whether a country is a ‘safe’ origin purely based on low cases of coronavirus are becoming irrelevant due to vaccines.
Technical discussions have also been on-going for several weeks between the EU and the US over the viability of making vaccine certificates from different origins readable so that people can travel without restrictions.
It is hoped that government-issued vaccine cards issued by foreign governments will become acceptable and readable in the EU and the US.
The shift in attitude towards American tourists provides a stark contrast to a year age when, as the pandemic surged across the United States amid the world’s worst outbreak, they were largely unwelcome in Europe.
Now, Americans are set to be some of the first travelers to be allowed back from outside the continent, as the average number of new daily coronavirus cases in the US sits at its lowest point since mid-September last year.
May 17 saw the US record 53,497 new coronavirus cases, although this was higher than the new daily infections over the last week. By contrast, at the height of the pandemic in January, over 300,000 cases were recorded in a single day.
The acceptance of US tourists does however highlight growing global vaccine inequality, with richer nations with access to millions of vaccines allowed to travel long before other less wealthy nationals, some of which are yet to even start vaccinating their citizens.
Brits are warned they must wear face masks on the beach or face £100 fines as they land in Portugal and emotional families are reunited in Gibraltar as holidays FINALLY restart
British tourists were handed face masks, sanitiser and asked to provide full details about their stay in Portugal as they touched down in the country for the start of long-awaited sunshine breaks.
All Brits arriving the country were also warned by officials at Faro airport of the strict rules for wearing face masks in public places, which includes keeping them on while on the beach or they could be hit with hefty £100 fines.
Passengers arriving were asked by immigration officials to produce proof of a negative PCR test and show that they had completed a locator form, with details of where they are staying before being allowed to proceed to the baggage hall.
In Gibraltar, support worker Lynne Wilson clinked glasses with husband David and her Rock-based daughter Kelly Dolan after a tearful airport reunion with toddler granddaughter Gabriela.
It comes as the Portuguese tourism minister announced at the weekend that ‘everything is open’ for British tourists when borders open.
Restaurants, coffee shops and bars have been opened up in time for an expected influx of holidaymakers next week, Rita Marques revealed.
She told the BBC : ‘We have been working hard to tackle the pandemic, as I said, so restaurants and coffee shops and shops and everything is open as from May 1.’
Amongst the first Brits to arrive in Faro today was honeymoon couple Siddhant Majithia, 26, and his wife Hemisha, 24.
The young couple only married two weeks ago and admitted that they were not looking forward to the prospect of honeymooning in Britain and were relieved when the Government placed Portugal on the green list.
Siddhant, an optician from Leicester revealed that they only booked their Portugal honey last Thursday. He said: ‘It’s great to get away and we’re very lucky to have got on this plane. We had to cancel three other honeymoons before this one because of the travel restrictions.
‘It was very frustrating and getting us down because the thought of a honeymoon in England with unpredictable wedding wasn’t very exciting.’
Hemisha, a physiotherapist added: ‘We were thinking of doing a road trip to the Lake District, which isn’t exactly a memorable honeymoon given the unpredictable British weather.
‘Now we’ve got the chance for a great break in the sun and I’m really looking forward to it.’
Romina Depino, 28 and her sister Teresa, 43, said that Portugal was their first break in over a year.
Teresa, from Surrey said: ‘It feels great to be here. The sun is shining, it’s warm and I just want to lie by the pool and chill. I’m a care worker for elderly people and it’s been a really difficult year and I really need this holiday.
‘We were meant to be going to Turkey but then it was placed on the red list, so we’ve ended up in Portugal, which isn’t bad really.’
Onel Hernandez, 28 arrived in Faro with his fiancé Kirsha, 27, her sister Hazel, 18, and their daughter Dreamy, two.
The family revealed that they were staying for two weeks and had been saving up all year for the break.
Onel, who lives in Norwich said: ‘It’s great to be back on holiday and something we’ve really missed. The one good thing about the lockdown is that it gave me a chance to save some money for a decent family holiday.
‘We only booked the holiday two weeks, and it was quite expensive because there is a lot of demand for Portugal. But it’s worth it because given what the whole world has gone through over the past year, we all need a holiday.’
British holidaymakers celebrated with drinks in the sun today after jetting to Gibraltar on the first ‘green list’ flight from the UK.
Lynne, 59, clinked glasses with husband David and her daughter Kelly, 33, after a tearful airport reunion with granddaughter Gabriela.
Lynne, from Cambridge, wiping away a tear as she sat Gabriela, one last week, on her lap after hugging her as she came out of arrivals and watched her walk towards for the first time, gushed: ‘Last time I saw her was at Christmas when Kelly came to the UK.
‘Gabriela couldn’t walk then so this is a very emotional moment for me. She started walking on April 1 and she’s been running since then.
‘We booked last year for May 11 but that flight got cancelled and we rebooked for today. We’re here for six days and we’re going to make the most of the sunshine and being with family again.’
Fuel service engineer David, sipping his first pint in near-eighty degree Fahrenheit heat at a bar in Gibraltar’s iconic Casemates Square after leaving Heathrow Airport on the BA492 flight which touched down at 11am local time, added: ‘This beer tastes great.
‘The sun makes it feel so much better. It was cold and raining when we left London.’
Mark Walker, enjoying his first pint in a neighbouring terrace bar a few feet away with wife Jo before checking into their nearby hotel after coming in on the same flight, added: ‘We left our home in Devon at midnight because we weren’t sure how chaotic the airport would be and we knew parts of the M4 were closed.
‘We got to Heathrow around 4am and we haven’t had any sleep.
‘But it’s been worth it so far. It’s great being able to travel again.
‘We normally take several short breaks abroad every year. We were booked to be on the Greek island of Skiathos right now but when that got cancelled I decided to try booking Gibraltar last month because I thought it would be a dead cert for the green list and I wasn’t wrong.’
Jo, 50, added: ‘Mark’s been here twice on day trips years ago but it’s my first time on the Rock. It’s just nice to get away and be in the sun. The weather was decent in Devon in April but it was a rotten May.
‘That’s why we stopped off for a drink before we got to the hotel and we’re still lugging our suitcases. We’ll savour this first pint, and maybe a second, and then do the check-in.
‘We’ve got a walking tour booked for Wednesday and I imagine we’ll make it to the top of the Rock at some point to see the Barbary apes.
‘But basically we’re just looking forward to a relaxing six days away after so long without a holiday.’
Finance director Max Arks, 36, the first off the flight with pal Warwick Howard, 37, said: ‘It’s the first chance we’ve had to go on holiday for ages so we just thought, ‘Why not!’
‘I’ve come to see friends and mix a bit of pleasure with business. We’ll have a few beers while we’re here.’
Luke Barnard, 26, who flew in from his home in Chelmsford, Essex, to get married on the Rock with fiancee Alexa Turner, 23, from Cincinnati, Ohio, added: ‘Getting married in the US was going to be very difficult and Gibraltar seemed a great option.
‘We’re getting married on Wednesday in the Registry Office and we’re staying in the Rock Hotel.
‘It was something we had already planned but the fact Gibraltar was put on the UK’s green list is a relief because you’re always a little bit concerned about what’s going to happen at the moment when you book a trip abroad.’
Alexa, who did five days’ quarantine after flying in from the States three weeks ago, added: ‘The flight was about 90 per cent full and there were quite a lot of tourists on it.
‘When we left Heathrow it was raining and cold and only about 12 degrees Celsius so we’re looking forward to feeling the sun on our faces.
‘We’re here till Thursday and we’re going to make the most of every minute.’
The first UK flight to Gibraltar since the May 7 announcement the overseas British territory was one of a handful of green list countries, touched down just 24 hours after the Rock’s government announced zero active resident and visitor Covid cases for the first time since July 21 last year.
All its adult population have been offered vaccines and thousands of Spanish workers who cross the busy border every day to work in Gibraltar, which has a population of just over 33,000, have also received both their jabs.
The last records released yesterday show the total number of vaccines administered were 74,461 – 38,905 first dose and 35,556 second dose.
A last-minute Gibraltar Government vaccination change in policy meant holidaymakers and Gibraltar residents on the first green list plane this morning discovered they still had to be tested for Covid despite saying they had been told before their trip no tests were needed.
Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo boasted on Sky TV earlier this month British holidaymakers jetting to the Rock would not need PCR tests.
But he was due to announce this afternoon air arrivals from the UK would continue to have to undergo testing for Covid-19 upon arrival in Gibraltar because of concerns over the spread of the Indian variant of the virus in the UK.
Passengers on flight BA492 were today offered free – but mandatory – quick lateral flow tests after reaching the Rock unless they could provide negative PCR tests.
Nick Tree, a former BA airport manager from Stratford-upon-Avon in the West Midlands, said after arriving in Gibraltar: ‘I paid for a PCR test in the UK 10 minutes before the Gibraltar Government changed the technical notice and said no test was required.
‘I touched down to be told the policy had changed while we were in the air and I had to go to a Portakabin outside the terminal to be swabbed.
‘When I said I’d got a negative PCR test which is the most reliable type of test there is I was told to upload it online so local officials were aware.’
Another passenger on the flight added: ‘It was all a bit chaotic. We boarded the flight thinking we’d need nothing and arrived to find we had to be tested because of a last-minute change of policy.
‘The immigration officials were telling us to start with when we touched down they could only let us in if we booked a lateral flow test online but when we tried through the app we were told there would be a charge.
‘In the end we got through and had it done for free.’
Warwick Howard, from Fenny Drayton in Leicestershire, said: ‘We were caught a bit blindsided by the test requirement but I’m happy to comply.
‘It’s a simple test and very little hassle for something which at the end of the day helps to keep everyone safe.’
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