EU Agrees to Add Japan to Safe Travel List, Holds Off on Britain

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -
Travelers walk towards the COVID-19 testing center at Heathrow Airport in London. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

European Union governments agreed on Wednesday to add Japan to their small list of countries from which they will allow non-essential travel, while holding off until at least mid-June for British tourists, EU sources said on Tuesday.

Ambassadors from the EU’s 27 countries approved the addition of Japan at a meeting on Wednesday, with the change to take effect in the coming days.

EU countries are recommended gradually to lift travel restrictions for the current seven countries on the list – Australia, Israel, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.

Individual EU countries can still opt 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.

Britain met that revised target but was left off the list because of an increase in COVID-19 cases arising from an infectious coronavirus variant first identified in India.

Britain recorded no COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, for the first time since March 2020, but cases of the Indian variant doubled last week and the government has said it is too early to say whether Britain can fully drop restrictions on June 21.

EU diplomats said Britain could be added to the list, depending on the course of the variant, in mid-June, when a larger group of countries are expected to be considered.

The list is designed to eliminate inconsistency of travel restrictions across the bloc.

France and Germany have imposed quarantines on U.K. visitors and Austria banned British tourists, while Portugal and Spain now welcome them.

Meanwhile, Britain advises against travel to all EU countries except Portugal and only exempts people coming from Portugal from a requirement to quarantine.