FILE PHOTO: Passengers wearing protective face masks walk at Fiumicino Airport on the day EU governments agreed a "safe list" of 14 countries for which they will allow non-essential travel starting from July, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Rome, Italy, June 30, 2020. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
By Philip Blenkinsop
June 1, 2021
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union is set to add Japan to its small list of "safe" countries from which it will allow non-essential travel, but will hold off opening the door to British tourists for now, EU sources said on Tuesday.
Ambassadors from the EU's 27 countries are expected to approve adding Japan at a meeting on Wednesday, while Britain will be left off because of a rise in COVID-19 cases due to an infectious coronavirus variant first identified in India.
Under current restrictions, people from only seven countries, including Australia, Israel and Singapore, can enter the EU on holiday, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated.
Individual EU countries can still choose to demand a negative COVID-19 test or a period of quarantine.
The EU last month eased criteria for adding new countries to the list, by changing to 75 from 25 the maximum number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the previous 14 days. The trend should also be stable or decreasing, with variants of concern taken into account.
EU health experts considered both Japan and Britain at a meeting on Monday, but representatives from a number of countries voiced opposition to adding Britain now.
Cases of the Indian variant doubled last week and the government has said it is too early to say whether Britain can fully drop COVID-19 restrictions on June 21.
Depending on the course of the variant, Britain could still enter the safe travel list on June 14, when a larger number of countries are expected to be considered, EU sources said.
The list is designed to ensure consistency across the bloc, although that has been lacking.
France and Germany have imposed quarantines on UK visitors and Austria banned British tourists, while Portugal and Spain have started welcoming them.
Britain requires all EU visitors, except those from Portugal, to undergo quarantine.