The European Union (EU) has recommended its member states institute travel bans on visitors from the United States due to its high number of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases. In addition to America, five more countries were recommended for travel bans – the Republic of Macedonia, Israel, Montenegro, Lebanon, and Kosovo.
“Non-essential travel to the EU from countries or entities not listed in Annex I is subject to temporary travel restriction. 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. As stipulated in the Council recommendation, this list will continue to be reviewed regularly and, as the case may be, updated,” the EU said in a press release on Aug. 30.
Travel restrictions currently in place for some other countries were recommended to be removed. This allows people from New Zealand, Singapore, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and other countries to travel to the EU. China was also placed on this list, but “subject to confirmation of reciprocity.” The EU recommended a gradual easing of restrictions for Macau, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, over 15 million Americans visited Europe every year. The travel restrictions imposed as part of the pandemic control measures have cost nations in the EU billions in lost revenues.
However, any EU guidance would be nonbinding on the 27 member states, as each national government has full freedom to decide how to treat travelers from the U.S. Some countries might completely restrict all non-essential travel from the United States, while others will likely impose quarantines and similar measures. To get into Europe, Americans need to be fully inoculated with vaccines made by Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, or AstraZeneca.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki stressed that the fastest way to reopen travel “is for people to get vaccinated, to mask up, and slow the spread of the deadly virus.” However, Psaki’s claim that more vaccinations would result in lower cases has not necessarily panned out.
Between Jun. 15 and Sep. 1, the number of daily new COVID-19 cases per million Americans increased over 17-fold from 33.95 to 594.82. The number of confirmed deaths per million rose from 0.96 to 5.93 during this period, an increase of over five times. This happened despite the fact that the proportion of fully vaccinated Americans jumped from 43.34 to 51.91 percent.
Last week, the U.S. saw new COVID-19 cases rise to an average of around 152,000 per day. The number of hospitalized patients was about 85,000, a level not seen since early February. Daily COVID-19 deaths were recorded at 1,200 for many days, seven times higher than it was in July.
Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to block EU travelers from coming into the country despite calls from the bloc’s leaders to relax the ban. Adalbert Jahnz, European Commission spokesperson for home affairs, stated that while they have discussed the issue with the Biden administration, both sides have failed to arrive at a consensus.