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European Union to allow vaccinated Americans to visit by mid-2021

A top European Union official says Americans who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 should be able to travel to Europe by summer, easing existing travel restrictions.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told The New York Times that the union's 27 members would accept, unconditionally, all those who have received vaccines that have been approved by the European Medicines Agency.

The agency has approved the three vaccines used in the US.

"The Americans, as far as I can see, use European Medicines Agency-approved vaccines," Ms von der Leyen said.

"This will enable free movement and travel to the European Union."

However, she did not say exactly when travel could resume.

The EU largely shut down non-essential travel from hundreds of countries, including the US, more than a year ago.

EU countries agreed this month to launch COVID-19 travel passes that would permit people who have been vaccinated against the disease, recovered from an infection, or have tested negative, to travel more easily.

Domestic US travel advice relaxed

Meanwhile, in the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can safely travel at "low risk".

However, the CDC stopped short of recommending Americans do so because of high coronavirus cases nationwide.

The CDC's shift in guidance should be a shot in the arm for the travel industry, which is still struggling from the dip in passengers since the onset of the pandemic in late 2019.

But CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters that despite the new guidance for vaccinated people, now was still not a good time to take a trip.

"We know that right now we have a surging number of cases. I would advocate against general travel overall," she said.

"We are not recommending travel at this time, especially for unvaccinated individuals."

The CDC had held off changing its travel guidance even as vaccinations increased, irking the travel industry.

Its new guidance on Friday (local time) seemed to be an attempt to acknowledge that vaccines made travel significantly safer while seeking to thwart a big increase in movement until more people have had their shots.

COVID-19 testing and quarantining will not be necessary before or after travel as long as travellers take precautions like wearing masks and maintaining social distance.

Airlines for America, a group representing major US airlines including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and other trade groups, had urged the CDC on March 22 to immediately update its guidance to say "vaccinated individuals can travel safely".

Air travel still remains down 43 per cent from pre-COVID levels, and business and international travel remain even harder hit.

The airline group praised the CDC's "updated travel guidance" that eases "travel restrictions for fully vaccinated individuals".

Restrictions banning most non-US citizens from the United States who have recently been in China, Brazil, South Africa and most of Europe won't be lifted.

The CDC's new guidance says fully vaccinated people do not need COVID-19 tests before international travel unless it is required by the international destination.

Vaccinated people returning from foreign travel do not need to self-quarantine after returning to the United States, unless required by state or local authorities.

The CDC had repeatedly declined in recent weeks to change the guidance and would discourage all non-essential travel because of a concern about new variants.

Many Americans have not been heeding the CDC's advice.

The Transportation Security Administration screened 1.56 million people at US airports on Thursday, just below Sunday's 1.57 million, which was the highest daily total since March 2020.

The last time the number of airport passengers screened was below 1 million was March 10.

US President Joe Biden's administration has taken steps to reduce international travel and mandated masks on nearly all forms of public transit. The administration is not eliminating any mask rules.

The White House is also sticking by its goal that all adults will be eligible for vaccines in the coming weeks.

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci told reporters studies showed children would be able to be vaccinated too.

"There are studies under way in children that go from six months to 11 years. And by the end of this year we should have enough information to be able to safely vaccinate children of virtually any age," Dr Fauci said.

This article originally appeared on ABC News

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