Confirmed: EU recommends restrictions on US travellers as delta variant spreads

Aug 31, 2021

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The European Union on 30 August recommended that member states reimplement travel restrictions for U.S. visitors.

The move is the result of the continued spread of the coronavirus in the United States. The recommendation, which is not mandatory, would mean the U.S. has been removed from the EU’s “safe list.”

Israel (one of the world’s most-vaccinated countries), Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro and North Macedonia were also removed from the list.

“Following a review under the recommendation on the gradual lifting of the temporary restrictions on nonessential travel into the EU, the Council updated the list of countries, special administrative regions and other entities and territorial authorities for which travel restrictions should be lifted,” the Council of the EU said in a statement.

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The EU reopened to fully vaccinated American tourists in June. U.S. travellers could avoid mandatory quarantine by showing a negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination. If countries decided to reimpose restrictions, unvaccinated U.S. travellers could be subjected to additional testing and quarantine requirements. The new restrictions would not apply to vaccinated travellers, according to The New York Times.

When the EU reopened to vaccinated American tourists this summer, the hope was for an influx of eager travellers during the peak tourism season. European countries reliant on tourism, including Iceland, France, Spain, Croatia, Portugal and Greece, reopened their borders early on.

But individual member nations can decide when to relax — or tighten — border restrictions.

The EU recommendation comes as the highly transmissible delta variant surges throughout unvaccinated pockets of the United States. Just 52% of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. The U.S. reported nearly 180,000 new cases on 27 August, the highest figure since late January.

Restrictions will likely further hurt the EU’s travel sector, which is already reeling from the pandemic. The travel industry was largely upset with the move, with many calling the recommendation “disappointing.”

“The European Union’s recommendations are a step backwards, and clearly disappointing to the U.S. airline industry which has worked diligently to safely resume transatlantic service,” the trade group Airlines for America (A4A) said on Monday.

Restrictions will likely further hurt the EU’s travel sector, which is already reeling from the pandemic.

The U.S. Travel Association, an organization that represents the travel industry, urged the EU to remain open to vaccinated Americans and encouraged the U.S. to reopen for travel. The U.S. remains closed to much of Europe as part of the Trump administration’s ban on travellers from Schengen-area countries.

“This is a disappointing development following the boost in inbound visitation by vaccinated travellers that many EU countries experienced this summer,” U.S. Travel Association executive vice president Tori Emerson Barnes said in a statement. “Travel is a crucial component of the global economy and will be necessary for a full recovery from the economic devastation of the pandemic.

Despite the potential impact on tourism, some EU members may already be enhancing travel restrictions and testing requirements

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the global trade association of airlines, echoed Emerson Barnes in a statement, saying that travellers “who are fully vaccinated should be free to move without restriction.”

Featured image by © Santiago Urquijo / Getty Images. 

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