The European Council on Tuesday announced that it would start lifting travel restrictions for 14 countries outside the EU beginning 1 July, after closing its external borders in March to slow the spread of coronavirus.
The approved countries have been selected based on infection rates, containment measures and overall response to COVID-19.
Some of the criteria to be considered a safe country includes having the number of COVID-19 cases “close to or below the EU average,” having a “stable or decreasing trend of new cases” and having sufficient social distancing measures in place.
The list, which will be updated every two weeks, is not legally binding, allowing individual EU countries to implement the guidance as they wish.
What countries are included?
The countries deemed “safe” by the Council include: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay.
China is on the list, but will be subject to a reciprocal agreement in which the Chinese government must allow EU citizens into the country.
Why have some countries been excluded?
The US, Brazil, Russia and India have been excluded from the list due to high infection rates. The US has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the world, with 2,590,552 positive cases, and 126,140 deaths to date according to data from the Johns Hopkins University.
Brazil has the second highest infection rate, with 1,368,195 confirmed cases and 58,314 deaths. Russia has reported 640,246 cases with 9,152 deaths and India has reported 566,840 cases and 16,893 deaths.
Are there exceptions?
The European Council said in their statement that in countries where travel restrictions still apply, EU citizens and their family members, long-term EU residents and their family members and travelers with an essential function or need are exempt from the travel ban.
The UK will be treated as part of the EU until the end of the year, until the transition period ends. Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are also exempt from restrictions.
Residents from the micro-states of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican have also been given clearance to travel freely within the EU.
Will rules vary in different EU countries?
Each EU member state is allowed to decide how they control their borders.
Greece has made it mandatory for travelers from France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain to be tested for COVID-19 on arrival. Those who test positive will be asked to self isolate.
People arriving to Ireland must quarantine for 14 days and must complete a form declaring where they will self isolate.
The Czech Republic has banned visitors from Portugal and Spain from entering the country.
The UK are asking visitors to self isolate for 14 days upon arrival, although UK citizens are allowed to travel freely to many EU countries.
Regarding international travel, the World Health Organisation has warned that “nowhere is 100% safe” or “without risk.”