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EU Moves Closer To Allowing In Nonresident Vaccinated Travelers

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, wears a protective mask during a meeting in Brussels last week.
Olivier Matthys
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, wears a protective mask during a meeting in Brussels last week.

The head of the European Commission said Monday that she is recommending that nonresident travelers vaccinated against COVID-19 and those from "countries with a good health situation" be allowed to travel to the European Union this summer.

However, von der Leyen cautioned in a tweet Monday that if variants of the coronavirus emerge, "we have to act fast: we propose an EU emergency brake mechanism."

Current EU restrictions allow only travelers from seven countries to enter the 27-member bloc, regardless of whether they've been vaccinated.

Last week, von der Leyen said U.S. travelers would be allowed to resume travel to EU countries but did not give a time frame. The economies of many EU nations, such as Spain and Italy, rely heavily on tourism and have been hard hit by the prolonged absence of Americans due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The recommendation is set to be discussed on Tuesday and must be approved by all EU member states to come into force, according to Reuters. Individually, countries could still decide to honor the recommendation even if some don't, the news agency said.

Meanwhile, on Monday, in a letter to President Biden and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, several groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others representing the airline and travel industries in both the U.S. and the U.K., urged the two leaders to reopen their travel markets.

A planned G-7 summit in the U.K. on June 11 — the first since the start of the pandemic — "would be an ideal opportunity for a joint announcement of the full reopening of the U.S.-UK air travel market for both U.S. and UK citizens," they suggested.

"We are confident that the right tools now exist to enable a safe and meaningful restart to transatlantic travel," the industry groups wrote, according to Bloomberg.

Among the groups that signed on to the letter are Airlines for America, the Global Business Travel Association, the Air Line Pilots Association, Virgin Atlantic, the Association of UK Airlines and the Aerospace Industries Association.

Although air passenger numbers in the U.S. remain historically low, the country has been rebounding, with the Transportation Security Administration reporting that more than 1.6 million people were screened at airports on Sunday, compared with only around 170,000 a year ago.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.