EU Bids Summer Welcome—But Not Just Yet

News that the European Union is “allowing” fully vaccinated Americans to vacation within its confines this summer (date yet to be determined) should NOT be taken by Canadians as a “given” that trans-Atlantic travel will be returning to normal anytime soon.

Earlier this month, the US State Department, following advice from the CDC, upgraded 80 per cent of the world’s nations to “Level 4: Do Not Travel” status. That included Canada, Mexico, the UK, and much of Europe. The nations not upgraded to Level 4 are largely in East Asia, Oceania, and parts of Africa and the Caribbean. Canada too maintains its “Avoid all non-essential travel” advisory to all foreign countries, warning that any air passengers returning from “non-essential travel” will trigger the now infamous hotel-quarantine response.

In addition, most Canadian private travel insurance plans warn they may not cover all benefits for travel to countries on the “Avoid non-essential travel” list. So anyone risking foreign travel should thoroughly examine their insurance policy, and preferably discuss it with their travel advisor.

How do you show proof?

The means of showing “proof” of vaccination also remains elusive at this point. The EU is hoping to release a Digital Green Certificate (DGC) model in June for use by all member countries. It would not require that holders of the DGC be vaccinated so long as they could provide proof of a negative COVID test just prior to travel or proof they had COVID and have since recovered. But if vaccinated, the actual vaccine must be on the list approved by the European Medicines Agency. Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, and Astra Zeneca are all on the list.

However, vaccination certificates or passes—digital or paper—are not common currency. Official government-issued proofs of vaccination don’t appear to be imminent in either Canada or the US despite reports by some EU agencies that “discussions about such mechanisms” are ongoing.

Not all EU countries are on board with the DGC plan as individual countries retain the right to impose tougher border measures if they wish. Greece—critically dependent on summer tourism—will allow visitors as of May 1 with proof of vaccination as will Spain effective July 1. But the mode of proof is up to Greece and Spain.

The formalization of digital passes, or vaccine passports, will remain an issue for travellers from Canada or the US as leaders in both countries have shown little enthusiasm for requiring mandatory vaccine certification of their citizens.

© Copyright 2021 Milan Korcok. All rights reserved.

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