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Europe puts forward plan to reopen tourism to countries outside the EU

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The European Commission has put forward a proposal on reopening non-essential travel from outside the EU. Tourism is one of the sectors that has been most hit by the pandemic and there is pressure from countries such as Greece, Cyprus and Spain to re-open as quickly as possible with the EU and to valuable markets outside the EU, like the British and Israelis.

In March, the EU outlined its approach to Europe's safe re-opening and agreed to keep the temporary restriction on non-essential travel into the EU under close review, and to propose amendments in line with relevant developments. The approach outlined reflects the latest scientific advice showing that vaccination considerably helps to break the transmission chain of the disease.

In parallel to preparing for the resumption of international travel for vaccinated travellers, the Commission proposed a ‘Digital Green Certificate’, showing proof that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19, received a negative test result or recovered from COVID-19, to help facilitate safe and free movement inside the EU. This proposal also provides the basis for recognizing non-EU countries' vaccination certificates.

The Commission is proposing to allow entry to the EU for non-essential reasons, not only for all persons coming from countries with a good epidemiological situation, but also all people who have been fully vaccinated with an EU-authorised vaccine. This could be extended to vaccines having completed the WHO emergency use-listing process.

To reassure some EU countries, the European Commission is also proposing an ‘emergency brake' mechanism, to be co-ordinated at EU level that would allow states to act quickly and temporarily limit to a strict minimum all travel from any countries affected by any variant of the virus which raises concern. 

The Council will take into consideration whether the third countries are also offering reciprocal measures for EU travellers.

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Ensuring smooth air travel while checking EU Digital COVID Certificates: New guidelines for member states

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Following the launch of the EU Digital COVID Certificate on 1 July, the European Commission has issued guidelines for EU member states on the best ways to check them before travel, ensuring the smoothest possible experience for air passengers and staff alike. The non-mandatory EU Digital COVID Certificate provides either proof of vaccination, shows if a person holds a negative SARS-COV-2 test result, or has recovered from COVID-19. Therefore, the EU Digital COVID Certificate is essential to support the re-opening of safe travel.

As passenger numbers will rise over the summer, an increased number of Certificates will need to be checked. The airline sector is particularly concerned by this since, in July for example, air traffic is expected to reach more than 60% of 2019 levels, and will rise thereafter. Currently, how and how often passenger's Certificates are checked, depends on the holder's departure, transit and arrival points.

A better-coordinated approach would help avoid congestion at airports and unnecessary stress for passengers and staff. Transport CommissionerAdina Vălean said: “Reaping the full benefits of the EU Digital COVID Certificate requires the harmonization of the verification protocol. Cooperating for a ‘one-stop' system to check the certificates makes for a seamless travel experience for the passengers across the Union.”

To avoid duplication, i.e. checks by more than one actor (airline operators, public authorities etc.), the Commission recommends a ‘one-stop' verification process prior to departure, involving co-ordination between authorities, airports and airlines. Moreover, EU member states should ensure that the verification is carried out as early as possible and preferably before the passenger arrives at the departure airport. This should ensure smoother travel and less burden for all involved.

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EU agrees to recognize Swiss COVID certificates

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Today (8 July) the European Commission adopted a decision recognizing Swiss COVID-19 certificates as equivalent to the EU Digital COVID Certificate. This should considerably ease travel between Switzerland and its neighbours.

Switzerland is the first country from outside the 30 countries of the EU and EEA area, to be connected to the EU’s system. The Swiss COVID certificates will be accepted in the EU under the same conditions as the EU Digital COVID Certificate. Swiss nationals, EU citizens, and third-country nationals legally staying or residing in Switzerland will be able to travel inside the EU under the same conditions as holders of an EU Digital COVID Certificate. 

Justice Commissioner, Didier Reynders, said: “I warmly welcome that the Swiss authorities have decided to implement a system based on the EU Digital COVID Certificate. This will allow EU citizens and Swiss nationals to travel safely and more freely this summer.” 

Switzerland shall be connected to the EU Digital COVID Certificate trust framework.

Talks are still ongoing with the UK and other third countries.

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COVID-19 Therapeutics Strategy: Commission identifies five promising candidate therapeutics

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The EU Strategy on COVID-19 Therapeutics has delivered its first outcome, with the announcement of the first portfolio of five therapeutics that could soon be available to treat patients across the EU. Four of these therapeutics are monoclonal antibodies under rolling review by the European Medicines Agency. Another one is an immunosuppressant, which has a marketing authorisation that could be extended to include the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said:“We are taking the first step towards a broad portfolio of therapeutics to treat COVID-19. Whilst vaccination is progressing at increasing speed, the virus will not disappear and patients will need safe and effective treatments to reduce the burden of COVID-19. Our goal is clear, we aim to identify more front-runner candidates under development and authorise at least three new therapeutics by the end of the year. This is the European Health Union in action.”

The five products are in an advanced stage of development and have a high potential to be among the three new COVID-19 therapeutics to receive authorisation by October 2021, the target set under the Strategy, provided the final data demonstrate their safety, quality and efficacy. See the Press Release and a Questions and Answers for further details.

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