Council Expected to Shorten List of Epidemiologically Safe Countries as Europe Faces Second Wave of COVID-19 Infections

The EU’s list of safe travel countries is expected to grow smaller, despite expectations that it would continue to get longer every two weeks, following a meeting of the European Council to revise the list of epidemiologically safe countries.

Algeria is now being remove from the list, making it come to a total of 11 countries. The United States and other western allies will also not be included in the list.

The progression of border openings and closings so far has been:

  • On 1 July, the EU opened their borders for residents of 15 third countries. The 15th country was China, and the condition was that they would show reciprocity to EU/Schengen residents. This marked the first time in nearly four months that the EU and Schengen Area would allow other nationalities to enter for non-essential purposes.
  • On 16 July, the European Council revised the list of epidemiologically safe countries. The list was shortened from 15 to 13 countries whose nationals would be allowed to enter. Serbia and Montenegro were removed from the list due to COVID-19 infection rates in the countries.
  • If all Member States necessary consent officially, the list of “epidemiologically safe” countries will be: Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, and Uruguay.
  • China has still not been included in the official count, as they have not shown reciprocity with the EU.

The way that the European Council makes recommendations regarding which nationalities are allowed in is whether or not the countries in question have similar COVID-19 infection numbers to the EU. It is based on the number of infections per 100,000 people during the last 14 days before evaluation.

The European Council simply makes recommendations to Member States regarding who will be allowed in and who will not. Although their recommendations are not legally binding for Member States to follow, most Member States do follow the recommendations strictly.

However, more border restrictions may not be only limited to external borders as Europe is facing a second wave of COVID-19 infections, similar to other third countries such as the United States. EU/Schengen Member States could reimpose internal border controls as well, should the situation seem out-of-hand to certain Member States.

When borders were opening up on 1 July, the average EU/Schengen infection rate was 16 per 100,000. Now, the average is around 20 per 100,000.

Data from the ECDC shows that not all Member States are equal in terms of infection rates per 100,000 though. For example, in Estonia the average infection rate is 1.8 per 100,000, whereas in Luxembourg the average is 224 per 100,000.

Certain measures are also being taken by individual Member States whose residents are returning home from vacation abroad. For example, in France and Germany COVID-19 tests are mandatory for returning holidaymakers returning home from COVID-19 hot spots globally.

The official list of the European Council’s “epidemiologically safe” is expected to come in the days following this article. Schengen-Visa.com will report the complete updated list.

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