E.U. Adds Hong Kong, Taiwan, U.S. to “White List”

The bloc is lifting Covid-19 restrictions on travelers from an additional eight countries and territories.

The Grand Canal in Venice, Italy, at sunset. (Photo: Rebe Adelaida/Unsplash)

European Union diplomats have just agreed to allow non-essential travel from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan into the 27-state bloc, putting them on a “white list” of epidemiologically safe places to be reviewed every two weeks. The trio now joins six other jurisdictions in the Asia-Pacific region that are already on the list, namely Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand. The decision was made at a meeting yesterday in Brussels, and Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia, Lebanon, and the United States were also accepted as new entrants. The United Kingdom was conspicuously left out, with officials citing their concerns over the surge of infections involving the Delta variant. To be included on the white list, countries or regions must have recorded less than 75 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people over the past 14 days.

When the updated list is approved, Brussels will issue a broad recommendation to exempt residents of those areas from a blanket travel ban first imposed in March 2020. But this is not legally binding as E.U. member states retain the right to determine their own entry rules, and can still require coronavirus testing or even quarantine for travelers from white list countries. Though the move was announced just in time for the summer holiday season, residents of Asia have little incentive to book a long-haul vacation to the continent. Two-way quarantine-free travel between the E.U. and Asia is not yet possible as no Asian countries or territories have so far negotiated travel bubbles with any of the bloc’s member states.

Current rules dictate that anyone arriving in Singapore from Europe must be quarantined for 21 days at a dedicated quarantine hotel. Hong Kong requires those returning from most E.U. countries to be in self-isolation for the same length of time, although residents who have been fully vaccinated will see their quarantine period shortened to 14 days.

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