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May 24, 2021, 6:24 a.m. EDT

When was the last time you saw Paris? EU ambassadors will ease travel restrictions, but Americans still face hurdles

The EU will give more details on the relaxation of existing measures next week, but every country will have its own timetable

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By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch


AFP via Getty Images
French President Emmanuel Macron said last month that France will be open to vaccinated U.S. tourists on June 9 with a “Pass Sanitaire” (Health Pass).

European Union ambassadors met this month to finalize plans to relax travel restrictions and allow in fully vaccinated visitors — but roadblocks remain for Americans who can’t remember the last time they saw Paris and wish to see it again.

EU Commission spokesman Christian Wigand said that the 27 member states should ease restrictions. “The Council should also soon expand the list of non-EU countries with a good epidemiological situation from where travel is permitted,” he said.

Currently, the U.S. does not qualify under EU guidelines for travel access (no more than 25 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people within the previous 14 days). EU officials are expected to settle on a limit of countries that have no more than 75 cases per 100,000 .

The EU is expected to announce more details this week for the relaxation of existing measures, but individual countries will still be able to set their own requirements for whom they allow in and what kind of quarantine arrangements, if any, they will be subject to upon arrival.

EU countries can still set their own requirements for who they allow in and what kind of quarantine arrangements, if any, they will be subject to upon arrival.

Case in point: While Greece allows vaccinated tourists from the EU, the U.S. and several other countries in order to provide a lifeline to the country’s economy, which is heavily dependent on tourism, Ireland still does not recommend tourists from other countries.

The U.K. has separate rules than the rest of the EU as that country has left the bloc under Brexit. It has a separate “green list” of countries. The U.S. is not on that list.

Vaccinated travelers to Ireland do not have to undergo a mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine; however, they must still quarantine upon arrival. (Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, said unrestricted travel for people flying from the U.S. could happen by July .)

“A person who is exempt from mandatory hotel quarantine or released from hotel quarantine early is still legally required to have a negative pre-departure RT-PCR test and to complete a period of self-quarantine at home/at the address given on the Passenger Locator Form,” Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs says .

Italy has been open to U.S. travelers on “COVID-tested flights” as of May 16 for the first time since the country closed its borders to U.S. tourists in March 2020. That is, those aboard must carry negative test results, and they don’t have to quarantine on arrival. Delta Air Lines /zigman2/quotes/200327741/composite DAL -2.52%  and American Airlines /zigman2/quotes/209207041/composite AAL -2.74%  are offering these flights.

As for Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron said last month that France will be open to vaccinated U.S. tourists on June 9 with a “Pass Sanitaire” (Health Pass) to prove they’re vaccinated with an approved vaccine. For those booking tickets, these rules can also be revoked.

Alternatively, these 10 countries are welcoming vaccinated Americans, but they won’t come cheap. They include Iceland, Belize, Croatia, Ecuador, Georgia, Guatemala, Iceland, Lebanon, Montenegro, Nepal and the Seychelles.

Coronavirus vaccines currently authorized by the European Medicines Agency include those made by Pfizer-BioNTech /zigman2/quotes/202877789/composite PFE -2.33%   /zigman2/quotes/214419716/composite BNTX -5.77% , Moderna /zigman2/quotes/205619834/composite MRNA -4.45% , AstraZeneca /zigman2/quotes/200304487/composite AZN -1.78% and Johnson & Johnson /zigman2/quotes/201724570/composite JNJ -0.23% .

One more cautionary note for travelers: Most airlines allow travelers to book the middle seats on flights, despite a recent study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggesting that blocking the middle seat reduces exposure to viruses, including the one that causes COVID-19.

“Physical distancing of aircraft passengers, including through policies such as middle seat vacancy, could provide additional reductions in SARS-COV-2 exposure risk,” the report noted. The CDC recently released new travel guidance for people who are fully vaccinated.

Multiple companies and organizations are developing “vaccine passports” that could simplify matters for international travelers.

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Quentin Fottrell is MarketWatch's personal-finance editor and The Moneyist columnist for MarketWatch. You can follow him on Twitter @quantanamo.

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