EU removes US from safe travel list, recommends limits as COVID cases rise

Coronavirus

FILE – In this Friday, July 16, 2021 file photo, visitors enjoy the view from top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The European Union is expected to recommend that its member states reinstate restrictions on tourists from the U.S. because of rising coronavirus infection levels in the country, EU diplomats said Monday, Aug. 30. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union recommended Monday that its 27 nations reinstate restrictions on tourists from the U.S. because of rising coronavirus infections there.

The decision by the European Council to remove the U.S. from a safe list of countries for nonessential travel reverses advice that it gave in June, when the bloc recommended lifting restrictions on U.S. travelers before the summer tourism season.

The guidance is nonbinding, however, and U.S. travelers should expect a mishmash of travel rules across the continent.

“Nonessential travel to the EU from countries or entities not listed (…) is subject to temporary travel restriction,” the council said in a statement. “This is without prejudice to the possibility for member states to lift the temporary restriction on nonessential travel to the EU for fully vaccinated travelers.”

The EU also removed Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro and North Macedonia from the list.

The EU has no unified COVID-19 tourism policy and national EU governments have the authority to decide whether they keep their borders open to U.S. tourists. Possible restrictions could include quarantines, further testing requirements upon arrival or even a total ban on all nonessential travel from the U.S.

More than 15 million Americans a year visited Europe before the coronavirus crisis, and new travel restrictions could cost Europe billions.

The recommendation doesn’t apply to Britain, which formally left the EU at the beginning of the year and opened its borders to fully vaccinated travelers from the U.S. earlier this month.

The United States remains on Britain’s “amber” travel list, meaning that fully vaccinated adults arriving from the U.S. to the U.K. don’t have to self-isolate. A COVID-19 test is required three days before arrival in the U.K. and another test is needed two days after arriving.

Meanwhile, the United States has yet to reopen its own borders to EU tourists, despite calls from the bloc for the Biden administration to lift its ban. Adalbert Jahnz, the European Commission spokesperson for home affairs, said Monday that the EU’s executive arm remained in discussions with the U.S. administration as both sides have so far failed to find a reciprocal approach.

In addition to the epidemiological criteria used to determine the countries for which restrictions should be lifted, the European Council said that “reciprocity should also be taken into account on a case by case basis.”

The European Council updates the safe travel list based on criteria relating to coronavirus infection levels. It gets reviewed every two weeks. The threshold for being on the EU list is having not more than 75 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the last 14 days.

Last week in the U.S. new coronavirus cases averaged over 152,000 a day, turning the clock back to the end of January, and the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients was around 85,000, a number not seen since early February.

U.S. coronavirus deaths have been over 1,200 a day for several days, seven times higher than they were in early July.

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