European Union Recommends Banning Non-Essential Travel From US

Kimberly Redmond  |

Video source: YouTube, CBS New York

The European Union is recommending its 27 member nations to ban non-essential travel from the US and other countries due to the latest surge in COVID-19 cases.

On Monday, countries within the bloc were advised to reinstate coronavirus-related restrictions and halt the arrival of tourists from the US, Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro and North Macedonia.

"Non-essential travel to the EU from countries or entities not listed in Annex I is subject to temporary travel restriction," the European Council, the EU’s governing body, said in a statement. "This is without prejudice to the possibility for member states to lift the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU for fully vaccinated travelers." 

The council had recommended in June that the EU should lift restrictions on nonessential travel from 14 countries, including the US, ahead of the summer tourism season.

Now, US travelers could face a variety of restrictions, including quarantine requirements, proof of negative COVID-19 tests or even a total ban on all non-essential travel. They may also be asked to provide proof of vaccination, with one of the jabs currently approved by the bloc — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson or AstraZeneca .

To be on the EU's safe travel list, a country must have had fewer than 75 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people per day over the previous 14 days. The US infection rate is much higher than that, with COVID-19 hospitalizations nationwide rising above 100,000 last week for the first time since January.

The council’s recommendation is non-binding, which means individual governments have the authority whether or not to allow “non-essential travel to the EU for fully vaccinated travelers.”

An EU diplomat told The Washington Post that travel restrictions may “vary from state to state, but it is widely expected that fully vaccinated Americans would still maintain unfettered access” to the European Union.

During a briefing on Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki made a similar point, saying that the EU restrictions apply to the unvaccinated and added that “the fastest path to reopening travel is for people to get vaccinated, to mask up and slow the spread of the deadly virus.”

Plans for the policy shift also stem a lack of reciprocity from American officials, who have yet to rescind the US entry ban on EU citizens despite calls from the bloc to do so, according to Reuters.

Psaki told reporters on Monday that the Biden administration is working with federal agencies to develop its own policy for international travel, with the possibility of strengthening testing protocols and potentially ensuring that foreign visitors are fully vaccinated.

The latest travel restrictions could cost European businesses billions of euros in lost travel revenues, The Associated Press reported, noting that prior to the pandemic more than 15 million Americans visited Europe each year.

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