A travel door which opened only recently may be shortly closed again as Europe becomes ever more concerned about rising COVID-19 cases in the US.
Out with the old…
Just over two months ago, in June 2021, the European Union urged member countries to open their borders to the United States in a bid to boost the continent’s tourism sector which had been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously a ban had been in place from July 2020 which prevented Americans from entering Europe, heavily impacting the 26 million Europeans employed in the tourism sector which usually accounts for 10% of the EU’s GDP.
The EU’s plan worked. Spain, Italy, Greece and Amsterdam all opened up their borders to eager Americans determined to get out of the US over the summer break. This was the perfect opportunity for the bloc to scrape back some lost earnings from the tourism industry.
In with the new…
On Monday, new restrictions were imposed by the European Union on U.S. travelers after covid cases continued to rise day after day. The move saw America transfer out of the EU’s “safe list” of countries which allows travellers to its 27 member states to cross the border without quarantining or testing on arrival. Subsequently, under the new guidance, travelers who aren’t vaccinated will face restrictions on arrival.
Representing the 27 countries within the EU bloc, the European Council said that the restrictions may remain in place for months to prevent their own COVID-19 case numbers from rising.
One of the Council’s criteria for lifting restrictions against travellers is that a country should have fewer than 75 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. America has been an exception over the last few weeks as we have experienced cases far over those stipulated in this threshold.
The restrictions, however, are only recommended and it is therefore up to each individual EU member state to choose whether to follow guidelines or not. Subsequently it isn’t yet totally clear which countries will choose to implement the restrictions. So far, Spain and Greece have said that they will stay open for unvaccinated American visitors in the coming weeks at least. France and Croatia also said they have no intention of immediately changing their rules for travel from the US. Americans who aren’t vaccinated will be able to travel to these countries without quarantine by showing a negative COVID-19 test on arrival.
Italy, by contrast, have outlined that they will require unvaccinated travellers to quarantine for five days on arrival, whilst vaccinated travelers will simply need to take a COVID-19 test 72hours before entering.
Europeans were already frustrated with the situation as, although they have allowed American tourists through their borders during the last year, this arrangement is yet to be reciprocated by the U.S. Here in America, our borders continue to remain closed to Europeans, although cases in Europe continue to remain stable.
It has now been 538 days since Europeans could travel directly into America, despite several comments from the White House implying that the travel ban would be lifted. Speaking during a news conference with Angela Merkel in July, President Biden said that he would know shortly whether restrictions could be lifted.
“It’s in the process of [considering] how soon we can lift the ban…and I will be able to answer that question to you within the next several days,” Biden said.
Nonetheless, later that week the White House clarified that the government did not intend to lift restrictions due to a surge of the Delta variant on the European continent.
The European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen as well as the Airline Passenger Experience Association have also urged President Biden to lift the travel ban from to prevent a harmful impact on businesses as well as families who are split between the two continents.
As rules continue to change, lines get increasingly blurred so here’s a quick summary:
If you’re double vaccinated, you shouldn’t have too much hassle getting to Europe over the coming months. However, it may be wise to take a COVID-19 test before traveling to ensure you have covered your back for your upcoming vacation.
Individuals who are unvaccinated and plan on travelling to Croatia, France, Spain and Greece will also be able to visit these countries without any change to previous rules. However, unvaccinated travellers going to Italy will have to prepare for 5 days-worth of quarantine.