As COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket in the US, the European Union is set to review its list of ‘epidemiologically safe’ countries in the following days. This means that the bloc might very likely reintroduce the recommendation to ban travelers from across the Atlantic, previously lifted in mid-June.
The EU reviews its list of safe countries every two weeks. It currently includes two dozen countries, such as the US, Japan, and Australia. However, sources recently expressed to Reuters that this week’s meeting could assess the situation in regards to the United States.
Potentially the worst surge the US has faced
When the ban on American travelers was lifted on June 18th, along with that for travelers from Albania and North Macedonia, the requirement of less than 4% of positives among all COVID tests carried out could still be met, which is no longer the case.
The US is currently tallying 270 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the past two weeks. That can be compared to the fewer than 75 per 100,000 when the EU took its decision to allow American travelers back in a little under two months ago.
With infection rates spurred on by slow vaccination rates and the highly contagious Delta variant, the US is once more averaging 100,000 new reported cases per day. Former US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams told the Washington Post in an interview last week that the surge that the country is going through right now ‘has every potential to be and already looks to be the worst surge’ it has faced thus far.
Countries still free to make own decisions
Since mid-June, each country has had its own sets of requirements for passengers from across the pond, ranging from full vaccination to, in the case of Belgium, nothing. Meanwhile, Finland only opened to fully vaccinated Americans as late as July 26.
However, even if the US is removed from the EU’s list of ‘safe countries’, it is not a question of an outright ban. The European Union can only provide its member countries with recommendations when it comes to border control, although most tend to follow the guidance.
As such, some countries may choose to remain open to American visitors. For instance, Greece reopened its borders to travelers from the US before Brussels said it was prudent to do so.
Delayed reciprocity proving irksome
There is also an element of disappointment in how the US and the Biden administration have handled a potential reciprocal reopening for European travelers. The 26 countries of the Schengen area remain on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s ‘prohibited’ list – and there is no indication as to when this could change.
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, recently urged the US to reopen its borders for transatlantic travel. Forbes quoted her as saying,
“The epidemiological situation in the U.S. and the EU today is very similar. We need to solve the problem as soon as possible and are in contact with our American friends. That shouldn’t drag on for weeks.”
How do you think the EU and the US should handle the recent wave of infections as far as travel restrictions are concerned? Leave a comment below and let us know.