The EU has decided that from Wednesday, the EU’s borders will be reopened to citizens from 15 non-EU countries, including Canada, Morocco and Australia, but not the US, Brazil and Russia.
China is on the list, but under the condition of a mutual agreement, it is still not in progress, the BBC reported.
The unanimous decision of the European Council is not legally binding, so states can decide not to open up to all these countries.
Diplomats spent five days debating the list, amid various concerns about the pandemic.
Apart from China, the so-called “safe travel destinations” are: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.
The UK and four other non-EU countries – Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway – are automatically included as “safe”.
The BBC’s Gavin Lee in Brussels says there has been intense lobbying by representatives of the US, Russia and Turkey to get them on the list.
EU officials say the decision was based on a number of scientific factors:
Ensuring that the rate of Covid-19 infection in the country is low enough (where states had less than 16 for every 100,000 infected)
That there is a downward trend in cases
That social distancing measures were at a “sufficient level”
A diplomat from a northern European member state told the BBC that “a certain amount of geopolitics also influenced the decision” and that “Balkan and Eastern European countries recommended” that Georgia, a former Soviet state, be included.
The Hungarian government is considered to have lobbied for the inclusion of Serbia. Spanish officials said that they asked for Morocco to be on the list, provided that there is an agreement on reciprocity.
Denmark and Austria were among several member states to discuss the number of countries under 15.
But in the end, the member states adopted it unanimously.
Each state will have to announce when it intends to start readmitting citizens from some or all of these countries.
French officials say they expect the decision to be implemented “in the coming days”.
The Czech Republic has published a list of eight countries it considers safe for travel.
The EU list will be updated every two weeks.
Many border controls have been lifted for EU citizens traveling within the bloc. Future rules for travelers to the UK are part of the current Brexit negotiations.
But UK citizens still need to be treated in the same way as EU citizens by the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December, the EU Commission says.
Thus, during this period, UK citizens and their family members are exempted from the temporary restriction on travel to the EU.
EU countries in the 26-member Schengen zone typically allow passport-free border crossings to EU citizens, but national authorities have re-established restrictions in this crisis.
The UK is currently negotiating temporary “air bridges” with several EU member states, so the coronavirus pandemic does not completely block the summer holidays – the busiest season in Europe for tourism, which employs millions of people.
In EU debates, there has been a rift between those like Spain – who want to boost tourism but prefer to play it safe because Covid-19 has hit so hard – and others like Greece and Portugal, who depend on tourism but are less scarred by the virus.