EU health ministers are expected on Tuesday to discuss whether it is advisable to adjust the travel curbs the bloc’s nations have imposed on Southern Africa in response to the Omicron variant, an EU diplomat said.   

One option under consideration is to require a PCR test for vaccinated third-country nationals from the region, which could allow a decision in a week or so to ease or lift some travel bans, according to an EU diplomat familiar with discussions ahead of Tuesday’s meeting in Brussels. 

The travel restrictions are not on the formal agenda for the meeting, and an EU official says that health ministers have no formal role in setting travel restrictions. The official said the meeting agenda includes booster doses, vaccination for children and measures states have put in place to combat the variant. 

In December, European nations suspended most air travel from SA and six other countries in the region to stem the spread of the new variant while scientists try to assess its severity. Governments across the world tightened entry rules and some reintroduced quarantine measures, as airlines slashed thousands of flights.

The EU co-ordinates travel guidelines within and into the bloc, but member nations are responsible for devising and implementing specific travel restrictions.

The European Commission will brief health ministers on the pharmaceutical strategy for Europe, which was proposed in 2021 in an effort to ensure quality and safety of medicines while boosting the sector’s global competitiveness.