It’s been a long and vacation-less year for most of us. But things are finally looking up for U.S. travelers as countries around the world are slowly reopening to foreign visitors. Now, it looks like the entire European Union may begin welcoming Americans again as early as this summer. It’s time to dust off your passport, pack that carry-on, and get traveling again.
In what might be the best news for Stateside travelers in the last twelve months, the European Commission (the executive branch of the European Union) confirmed that Americans could start visiting our friends across the pond sometime this summer. Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said in an interview with The New York Times, “The Americans, as far as I can see, use European Medicines Agency-approved vaccines … 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.” The vaccines she referred to are the three shots currently being administered in the U.S.: Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, and Johnson & Johnson.
Relative to the rest of the world, the U.S. handling of the coronavirus spread can only be described as abysmal. This fact alone is why the European Union closed the door to most non-essential travelers, including those from the United States. Von der Leyen recognized that the U.S. has since made “huge progress” this year. She noted we’re “on track” to reach herd immunity (i.e., the vaccination of at least 70 percent of adults) by the middle of June.
At the moment, this is all “top-level” news without a lot of specifics. The European Commission has yet to announce when the reopening will commence. It’s still in the process of figuring out how to determine proof of vaccination. It’s likely to start with low-tech, paper vaccination certificates. The key is to ensure that every member country knows what these are, how to read them, and to actually accept them. One solution is that travelers may need to secure an E.U.-approved vaccine certificate upon arrival by showing a genuine, U.S.-issued certificate at the airport. Ultimately, U.S. and E.U. officials hope to eliminate this step by creating a universal vaccine certificate recognized throughout most of the world.
It’s worth noting that the European Commission’s recommendation is just a broad guideline. Individual countries within the E.U. still have the right to enforce stricter policies however they see fit. Some may continue to ban foreign visitors, while others might still mandate increased restrictions or quarantining, even for vaccinated tourists. For countries like Spain, Portugal, and Greece that depend heavily on tourism dollars, however, they’ll likely be eager to reopen their borders.
If you’re itching to start traveling right now, the good news is that the CDC recently announced that vaccinated Americans are “now free to move about the country.” Keep in mind, however, that the same basic, common-sense requirements — washing your hands frequently, social distancing, and wearing a face mask — still apply.
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