- The European Union on Tuesday officially barred Americans from travelling to its member states as US coronavirus cases continue to rise.
- The US is among dozens of countries excluded from a list of safe countries whose citizens may travel to Europe once it reopens its borders on Wednesday.
- Countries on the safe list include Australia, Canada, and South Korea.
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European Union officials on Tuesday finalised and published a list of 15 countries whose residents will be allowed to visit when it reopens its borders on Wednesday.
The United States is not included, effectively barring Americans from visiting much of Europe for the foreseeable future.
The US is among dozens of countries deemed too risky because their coronavirus outbreaks are poorly contained.
The full list of safe countries – which is based on residency, not nationality – includes Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, and Uruguay; China will also be included as long as it allows European Union visitors.
Though the list is based on objective epidemiological criteria, according to European officials, the exclusion of the United States represents a major blow to America’s image on the global stage and undermines the Trump administration’s claims that the US outbreak is under control.
The US has reported more than 2.5 million coronavirus cases and 126,000 deaths, more than any other country.
While EU member states will not be legally required to abide by the list, those that do not could see other states close their borders to them, which would inhibit their participation in the EU’s economic recovery.
In early March, the Trump administration banned travel to the US from much of Europe, citing outbreaks in Italy, Germany, and elsewhere in the EU. The prohibition has not been lifted, even though Europe has largely contained its outbreaks.
The EU’s border closure, which came later in March, applied to visitors from most countries outside the bloc, not specifically Americans.
Portugal and Sweden, both EU members, still have serious outbreaks, as does Britain, which is considered as a member of the bloc until the end of the year. However, those countries individually have lower caseloads than the US, as does the EU overall.
Officials said the safe list would be reviewed every two weeks and include countries with rates of new cases that are the same or lower than the EU’s. The primary benchmark is the EU’s average number of new infections per 100,000 people over the past two weeks. As of mid-June, that number was 16 for the EU and 107 for the US, according to The New York Times.
Other criteria will include trends of stable or decreasing new cases over the previous two weeks, and the overall public-health response and reporting reliability from officials in each country, the European Union said.
The EU said exceptions would be granted for essential workers, including healthcare workers and diplomats, as well as students, asylum seekers, people with family emergencies, and others.
Prohibiting American travellers will have significant consequences for the EU. Millions of US tourists visit countries in the bloc each year. As travel demand recovers and Americans seek to venture abroad again, and as economies normally reliant on tourism seek to curb the fallout from the pandemic, the exclusion of a large and lucrative group of tourists could be damaging.
Some countries with economies that are especially dependent on tourism are expected to allow more foreigners by implementing health-screening protocols for arriving visitors.
Similarly, European leisure travellers spend millions in the US each year. The US could leave its ban on travel from Europe in place as retaliation.