BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union plans to open its borders to non-essential travellers such as tourists and most business people from a limited number of countries outside the bloc from July 1.
The 27 EU governments agreed on an initial "safe list" of 14 countries, which excludes the United States, Brazil, Russia and Turkey.
WHO IS ON THE LIST, AND WHY?
Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay are on the list. China will be included if it lets in EU visitors because reciprocity is a condition.
The EU considers those countries to have similar or better control of the COVID-19 pandemic as the bloc itself, based on the number of cases per 100,000 people in the previous two weeks. The EU average is around 16. (https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/geographical-distribution-2019-ncov-cases)
The figures for the United States, Mexico, Brazil and much of Latin America, Russia, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are too high, according to data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
As well having a stable or decreasing trend of new infections, countries must have sufficient testing, contact tracing, containment and treatment capabilities to deal with the pandemic and containment measures in place for all journeys.
They also need to satisfy the European Union that their data is available and reliable. Simply having no reported cases, as is the case with Tanzania, Turkmenistan and Laos, is not enough.
WHERE CAN THEY GO?
Travellers from the "safe list" countries will potentially be able to go to Europe and then travel freely throughout the Schengen area, which includes 22 EU countries, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
The list will be reviewed every two weeks to add some countries and remove others. It is only a recommendation to EU members, who can still impose some travel restrictions. The idea at least is that they should not open up to other countries.
WHAT ABOUT BRITAIN?
Although the EU wants to work on the basis of reciprocity, Britain, which is no longer an EU member, is an exception. It enforces 14 days of self-isolation on all non-essential travellers, but its residents have been free since mid-June to travel to many, but not all, EU countries.
Due to the lack of reciprocity, UK visitors are asked to carry out a 14-day voluntary quarantine in France. In Greece, flights from Britain are banned on health grounds.
WHO ELSE CAN TRAVEL?
Travel restrictions are not supposed to apply to travellers "with an essential function", including healthcare workers, seasonal agricultural labour, diplomats, students and people in need of humanitarian protection.
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, editing by Marine Strauss and Philippa Fletcher)