EU flags move to unrestricted travel to Europe for fully vaccinated visitors from US

Any Irish changes for inoculated travelers to be based around self-quarantine rules

Fully vaccinated American tourists will be able to visit the European Union over the coming months without restrictions, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has said.

More than a year after restricting non-essential travel from most countries to limit the spread of coronavirus, the head of the EU’s executive arm raised the possibility of relaxing EU-US travel restrictions with the development of vaccine passports to allow people to travel.

The use of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines in the EU and the US make mutual recognition of vaccination certificates easier to manage and so have the potential to provide a basis for the easing of restrictions.

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“The Americans, as far as I can see, use European Medicines Agency-approved vaccines. This will enable free movement and the travel to the European Union,” said Ms von der Leyen in an interview with the New York Times.


“Because one thing is clear: all 27 member states will accept, unconditionally, all those who are vaccinated with vaccines that are approved by the EMA.”

The EU is developing vaccine passports known as “digital green certificates” that could be recognised internationally as the bloc reopens travel with the pace of vaccinations increasing.

There have been technical discussions ongoing between the EU and the US on how to recognise each other’s vaccine certificates in order to relax travel restrictions.

Ms von der Leyen gave no timeline on when the relaxation in restrictions might take place and said that the resumption of travel would depend "on the epidemiological situation, but the situation is improving in the United States, as it is hopefully also improving in the European Union."

Her remarks indicate that the EU may permit an easing of relaxations but individual EU member states will still have the right to apply their own limits or restrictions on visitors.

Department of Foreign Affairs sources said any EU change to travel restrictions on inbound fully vaccinated visitors from the US are likely to be based around the self-quarantine required, particularly if vaccine strains are circulating in the US that are not widespread in Ireland.

Fully vaccinated visitors from the US are currently permitted to travel to Ireland but must undergo a 14-day period at a specified address and can cut short their period of quarantine if they have a negative or ’Covid-19 not detected’ PCR test - the standard coronavirus test - five days after arrival.

People arriving into the country from the US who are not fully vaccinated are required to undergo mandatory hotel quarantine because the US is one of 71 countries specified as designated states where there are higher rates of Covid-19 infection or variants of concern in circulation.

Ireland is not within the free-movement area covered by the Schengen Agreement so any new travel arrangements applying to visitors arriving into the US from the EU may be different.

The Government will likely look to align with Schengen but may move at a different pace depending on the UK’s approach to travel as Ireland is in the Common Travel Area with the UK.

Vaccine passports are being developed as the vaccinations programmes are advancing in the US and the EU. About 28.5 per cent of the US population, some 95 million people, have been fully vaccinated with the country on track to have 70 per cent of adults inoculated by mid-June.

About 7.4 per cent of the EU’s population has been fully vaccinated with Ireland’s vaccination programme slightly ahead of this average at 7.7 per cent of the population.

Some 381,000 people, or 10 per cent of the adult population, have been fully vaccinated.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times