European Union countries are close to reaching an agreement on the reopening of the bloc's external borders, stipulating a set of criteria that would continue to ban most travellers from the United States and Brazil beyond the end of this month, EU diplomats told.
Restrictions would be lifted from July 1 for about one dozen countries, including South Korea and New Zealand, EU officials told after negotiations between the countries on Friday evening.
The consensus reached by European diplomats on Friday still has to be confirmed by European capitals. If it is approved, it could be passed in writing on Monday.
The agreement comes three months after the EU, plus Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, closed its external borders to all non-essential travel due to coronavirus pandemic.
It followed weeks of intense discussions between EU member states about which countries the group should open its borders to and which ones to ban.
The rules would take into account epidemiological factors, such as the number of new infections, and whether the trend of cases is stable or decreasing.
The preliminary consensus largely follows Thursday's European Commission proposal. It had recommended to accept travellers only from countries with infection rates of close to or below 16 new Covid-19 cases over the last 14 days per 100,000 inhabitants, which is the EU's average.
It also recommends that the trend of new cases in a country should be stable or decreasing, and examine the overall response a country took towards the pandemic, such as contact tracing and containment measures.