Of the confirmed two million coronavirus cases, more than 113,000 Americans have died since the virus emerged here a few months ago.
Americans may be among those blocked from visiting European Union countries once they reopen their borders to visitors outside the continent starting July 1.
Kasper Zeuthen, a senior media adviser for the EU’s delegation to the U.S., said the European Commission will recommend progressively lifting travel restrictions based on objective criteria that measure the scope of the pandemic in each country.
The first yardstick: “The epidemiological situation in a given country … should be as good as or better than in the EU,” he said.
According to EU data, the bloc, including the European Economic Area and the United Kingdom, has 1.5 million COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday.
The United States leads the world in the number of coronavirus cases with 2.3 million as of Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins data. Brazil has 1.1 million cases, and Russia stands at about 600,000.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Trump administration is working with the EU “to determine how it is we can best safely reopen international travel.” He said it’s important to reopen the U.S. to European travel and vice versa for the sake of both economies.
“We’re working on finding the right way to do that, the right timing to do it, the right tactics to have in place,” he said in a news briefing Wednesday. “We certainly don’t want to reopen (in a way) … that jeopardizes the United States from people traveling here, and we certainly don’t want to cause problems anyplace else.”
EU officials will determine which countries’ visitors are allowed by looking at the trend in new infections, testing capacity, contact tracing and other steps countries across the globe have taken to contain the virus outbreak inside their borders.
Zeuthen said the European Commission is now considering which countries meet the criteria to lift travel restrictions, with another meeting set for Wednesday.
“The discussions are ongoing with a view to agreeing on a common list by July 1,” he said in an email. “Our main concern is health, and travelers will be kept informed as we move ahead.”
Whether Americans will be included on the list of those travelers allowed to visit the bloc remains uncertain given the U.S.’s high COVID-19 case count and lack of contact tracing. The EU’s feud with President Donald Trump over his sweeping ban on travel from European countries to the United States in mid-March doesn’t help.
According to The New York Times, which first reported the story, and CNN, the EU is considering keeping Americans out and is haggling over two potential lists of allowable visitors. But Kasper said “no lists (have been) finalized” yet.
Adalbert Jahnz, a spokesman for the European Commission in Brussels, the EU’s executive branch, said any such list would likely be reviewed every two weeks as new information about coronavirus trends in different countries becomes apparent.
Jahnz also stressed that the EU was not making “political decisions” about which countries should be allowed to travel to the 27-member bloc.
“This is fundamentally not about politics; it is about public health,” he said.
He said a decision could come by Friday.
Border checks were dropped June 15 for most Europeans, though it’s a complicated, shifting patchwork of different rules, and not everyone is equally free to travel everywhere.
‘So thankful to be back’: Italy, first to lock down in Europe, is slowly reopening, welcoming back tourists
The need to get Europe’s tourism industry up and running again is urgent for the EU’s 27 nations as the economic fallout of the crisis mushrooms.
Pompeo said the State Department is working with U.S. homeland security and transportation officials on a plan to get “global travel back in place.”
“I’m very confident in the coming weeks, we’ll figure that out … not only (between) the United States and the EU, but the United States and other parts of the world, too,” he said. The State Department began a phased resumption of passport services in mid-June but face a backlog of applications that were put on hold because of the pandemic.
On the ground: What France’s lockdown was like
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In the first 10 months of 2019, the latest figures available, 16.6 million U.S. citizens traveled to Europe, an increase of 7.3% from the same period in 2018, according to U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Office. Europe is the second-most popular international destination for American travelers after Mexico, accounting for nearly one in five trips. It is the most popular overseas destination by a wide margin, accounting for more than 40% of trips. The Caribbean is second, with 7.8 million U.S. citizens visiting in the first 10 months of 2019.
Contributing: Dawn Gilbertson, Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/news/2020/06/23/eu-ban-american-travelers-might-prohibited-visiting-europe/3244710001/
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