Brunei and five other countries taken off EU safe travel list

Azlan Othman

People arriving in European Union (EU) destinations from Brunei Darussalam and five other countries are facing tighter COVID-19 controls after the Sultanate was removed in the bloc’s safe travel list, Council of European Union said on Thursday.

It was only last week that the EU put Brunei on the safe list category. Following a review under the recommendation on the gradual lifting of the temporary restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU, the council has updated the list of countries, special administrative regions and other entities and territorial authorities, which sees six countries – Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Brunei Darussalam, Japan and Serbia – removed from the list.

The decision means that EU member states are now advised to impose stricter entry rules on arrivals from these countries, in particular for travellers who have not been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

As stipulated in the council recommendation, this list will continue to be reviewed every two weeks and, as the case may be, updated.

Based on the criteria and conditions set out in the recommendation, the EU also said that from September 9, member states should gradually lift the travel restrictions at the external borders for residents of Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Jordan, New Zealand, Qatar, Republic of Moldova, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Ukraine, Uruguay (new) and China, subject to confirmation of reciprocity.

Travel restrictions should also be gradually lifted for the special administrative regions of China – Hong Kong and Macao.

Residents of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican should be considered as EU residents for the purpose of this recommendation.

The criteria to determine the third countries for which the current travel restriction should be lifted cover the epidemiological situation and overall response to COVID-19, as well as the reliability of the available information and data sources. Reciprocity should also be taken into account on a case by case basis.

Data by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that Brunei recorded a surge of newly reported cases in the last seven days per 100,000 population.

On Wednesday, Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar said certain countries and agencies do not look at the absolute value figure when evaluating the severity of COVID-19 cases; rather they take note of the number of COVID-19 cases in relation to the population ratio.