UPDATE: Could the European Union really ban Americans again?
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information
The European Union has reportedly backed away from an immediate decision on whether or not Americans should continue being allowed into the 27 member countries’ borders. Speculation has been rampant that the EU may eventually vote to again ban Americans in light of the skyrocketing numbers of cases of the delta variant of COVID-19 in many parts of the United States.
The Washington Post reporting Aug. 11, “On Monday, after rumors circulated that the European Union would reimpose restrictions on U.S. travelers, the bloc decided against it, for now.. ”
Still, according to Post, “If the picture does not improve in the next two weeks, the council may remove the United States from the safe list, said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.”
Reuters news agency initially reporting last week that European Union would review the list of countries that are eligible for relaxed entry rules this week.
According to an EU official quoted by Reuters, the block was considering rescinding the permissions granted to some Americans for entry that have been in place since earlier this summer.
Right now, the European Union has a so-called coronavirus safe list of two dozen countries, including the United States.
On Monday, Reuters, still quoting anonymous EU officials said they had backed off any bans on Americans for now, “The European Union will not change its safe travel list this week, an EU official told Reuters on Monday, allowing non-essential travel from the United States to continue for the time being despite a surge in COVID cases there.”
Naveed Jamali is a national security expert and the author of “How to Catch a Russian Spy.” He told TPG, “With the lack of a universal approach to masks and vaccines in the states, why wouldn’t the EU be worried about Americans bringing COVID? I’m worried about them spreading it here.”
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It’s not just the delta variant that has the EU rethinking allowing in American tourists. Many Europeans remain angry that the U.S. is still closed to European tourists.
As we reported last month, President Biden told the press in a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on July 15 that an announcement on easing the restrictions could come “within the next several days,” but that hasn’t happened so far.
Bloomberg says the U.S. is now above the EU’s limit of no more than 75 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. The current United States official caseload is close to 270 cases per 100,000 — and increasing, according to Bloomberg.
A majority of the 27 member states would need to approve any ban, and it would remain up to individual countries to determine their own rules for entry.
European countries heavily reliant on tourism reopened their borders to vaccinated U.S. citizens early. They include Iceland, France, Spain, Croatia, Portugal and Greece— countries that may be unlikely to completely restrict Americans.
For now, Americans can breathe easier as any change in the rules is not imminent.
In any case, Bloomberg’s source says any ban on Americans would most likely not apply to those who are fully vaccinated. That would severely limit the impact on Americans since most European countries are already requiring vaccination for entry.
Tim Jue, a San Francisco-based reporter covering airlines and travel, told TPG if a full ban happens, it will be “heartbreaking for those travelers who have made or are making plans to travel to Europe again, myself included. And it’s going to further slow the recovery of international travel, which will be a bigger disappointment for those who depend on open borders to make a living.”
JohnnyJet founder and editor-in-chief John E. DiScala told TPG, “I don’t blame the EU for potentially banning Americans with our out-of-control COVID-19 numbers and most Americans’ blasé approach. The good news (is) if they do follow through with the ban, I bet some countries like Greece will still allow us to enter without quarantine.”
Any new restrictions would hit the EU’s travel sector hard. The resumption of transatlantic flights has helped the EU aviation market recover a bit over the past few months. Bloomberg reports that, according to OAG data, European airlines are currently at 70% of pre-pandemic capacity.
Travelers to most EU countries already have to be vaccinated with one of the vaccines approved in the EU, which means any vaccine approved for use in the U.S. will be accepted — Johnson & Johnson, Moderna or Pfizer.
Brian Summers is editor-at-large for travel site Skift and told me:
“As travelers, most of us want to get back to normal as soon as possible. We certainly don’t want to backslide. An intrepid group of Americans returned to Europe this summer, having fun like the good old days. But we must remember we are still in the midst of a once-in-century pandemic. The worst is probably past us, but the recovery path is not linear. If Europe thinks its best course of action is to limit American visitors, travelers will need to accept it. On the bright side, peak tourism season is nearly over. Let’s hope by next summer it is all sorted out and Americans can return, en masse.”
Jue said, “This recovery is going to be one step forward, one step backwards. We may hit some speed bumps, but I’m confident these closed borders are only temporary and won’t last as long as they did last year. Not with safe, effective vaccines out there.”
Additional reporting by Victoria Walker and Caroline Tanner.
Featured photo of the Trevi Fountain in Rome by hocus-focus/Getty Images.
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