Algeria likely to be removed from EU’s travel ‘safe list’

The measure would complicate travel for millions of Algerian expatriates who usually visit their home country every summer.
Wednesday 29/07/2020
A may 2020 file picture shows a member of Charles de Gaulle airport personnel in the deserted passport control section of arrivals in Terminal 2 of Charles de Gaulle international airport in Roissy near Paris. (AFP)
A may 2020 file picture shows a member of Charles de Gaulle airport personnel in the deserted passport control section of arrivals in Terminal 2 of Charles de Gaulle international airport in Roissy near Paris. (AFP)

BRUSSELS - The EU is to re-impose travel restrictions on Algeria, diplomats said Wednesday, after a resurgence of coronavirus in the North African state.

The measure will constitute a hurdle for the millions of Algerian expatriates who usually visit their country of origin every summer.

European governments have restricted inbound travel from outside the EU in order to slow the spread of the epidemic, but on July 1 began reopening their borders to travellers from certain areas.

The bloc is expected to announce on Thursday that Algeria is being removed from a list of non-EU countries deemed to have the virus under relative control, a number of diplomats said.

Though the final decision on who to admit rests with national governments, the move effectively bans travel from Algeria to the EU.

An EU diplomat said that Algeria’s neighbour Morocco would stay on the safe list but would be kept under close watch.

Algeria has seen a rise in coronavirus cases, with 675 infections — a one-day record for the country — recorded last Friday.  In total there are 29,229 confirmed cases and 1,186 deaths from the pandemic in Algeria, which is the third most affected country in Africa.

The highest toll in Africa has been recorded in South Africa with 459,761 cases and 7,257 deaths.

The most affected country in the North Africa and the Middle East region is Iran with nearly 300,00 confirmed cases and 16,343 deaths.

The EU’s safe list — which is reviewed every two weeks — also includes Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.

China has also been provisionally approved, although travel would only open up if Chinese authorities also allowed in EU visitors.

The EU list is unlikely to be revised again during August, when EU institutions typically take a break, although countries might be removed if there is a sharp increase of coronavirus infections.

The list serves as a guideline rather than a rule for the EU’s 27 members and is aimed at supporting the EU travel industry and tourist destinations, particularly countries in southern Europe hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The idea is that no EU country would open up to countries not on the list. However, Italy and Belgium, for example, have held off opening up to any.

In France, a negative virus test will become mandatory at the latest on August 1 for visitors from 16 countries, including Algeria, the United States, Oman, Qatar, Turkey and Brazil. Otherwise travellers are to be tested on arrival and go into quarantine if positive.

Most of the countries on the EU safe list also either ban almost all foreign visitors or require them to quarantine for 14 days.

Meanwhile, many restrictions remain for travel within Europe and the passport-free Schengen area, which includes non-EU countries, such as Norway and Switzerland.

Britain, which is also considered part of Europe for travel purposes, suddenly announced on Saturday that it was enforcing a quarantine for people coming from Spain.