US travel ban in Europe. US close to lifting travel bans?

The European Union is reviewing the state of the US in its list of epidemiologically safe countries; the EU council’s list consists of the non-EU or EEA countries that are considered safe to travel and allowing flights in due to the low rate of infection.

The EU’s safe list is reviewed periodically and adjusted depending on the rate of infection of the designated country. The EU Council had last updated the safe list on July,15, 2021 when it advised its member to allow non-essential travel for 23 countries; However, the member states of the EU are not bound legally to apply the safe list rules implemented by the council; they are free to determine the safe list by themselves and accordingly set their own rules policies considering the travel restrictions.

US travel ban in Europe
JetBlue Airbus A220-300 on final runway 1L at Tampa International Airport, Photo by Steven Larson Jr.

The US had been added to the council’s safe list back on June 18, 2021, as the country had a decreasing trend of newly infected cases with the test positivity rate less than 4%. But, after two months of successfully securing a spot on the list, the US’s position on the council’s safe list is in jeopardy. Due to the recent development of the US infection rate, the dramatically increasing number of new cases has forced the EU to reconsider its position on the safe list. The US has surpassed the limit of less than 75 Covid-19 cases per 1,00,000 inhabitants during the last 14 days.

In the light of the recent situation, the member states of the EU are interpreting emphasizing the travel ban on the travelers from the US as the country no longer fulfills the criteria required to be on the safe list with its daily increase Covid-19 infection. However, it was reported that there was a lack of unity between the EU states regarding the removal of the US from the list; some nations are reasoning the demand of reciprocity from the US for staying on the list, whereas some states highly dependent on the tourism sector are reluctant about the consideration.

Reciprocity Action To US’s Ban?

The EU council’s speculation might not have been entirely based on the increasing rate of Covid-19 patients in the US; there is the possibility that it might have been linked with the US authorities still imposing the travel ban against the EU citizens.

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The US government hasn’t given any sign on lifting the restriction for the travelers from EU states, including other countries like China, India, Iran, and Brazil, at least not during the present situation. The US authorities implemented such strict restriction due to the increase in the Delta variant patients in these countries, to minimize the risk of the spread of new variant of Covid-19, sources within the White House confirmed to Reuters about not having any intention of lifting the ban on travel to the citizen from these nations back in July 2021.

But, in the late June of 2021, US President Joe Biden, during a news conference with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House, revealed the probability of lifting the ban on travel from Europe. However, later during a White House senior-level meeting, it was decided to keep the ban in place and with uncertainty for the restriction time period.

The authorities told Reuters.

 “Given where we are today with the Delta variant, the United States will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point.”

On the other hand, the EU removed the travel ban on the citizens from the US in June 2021, putting them in the council’s list of epidemiologically safe countries alongside other nations like Lebanon, Serbia, Taiwan, Albania, North Macedonia, including the Chinese administrative regions like Hong Kong and Macau.

Although there is a possibility of the EU re-introducing the travel restriction on the visitors from the US as it had breached the threshold to be included among the non-EU countries that can access travel into the bloc, removing the US from the safe list would require agreement among the majority of the EU states. The restriction would apply only to the non-essential travelers only, not revoking the travel rights of the essential travelers.

EU’s Urge For Lifting US’s Travel Ban

In June 2021, the EU representatives urged the US to allow entry for business travelers from the EU amidst its continuous ban. The European Union’s top diplomat, Stravos Lambridindinis, also stated that it was a mistake not to allow entry passes to even business executives, strongly pointing out that 60% of the investments in the US were from the EU.

Lambridindinis further added EU had allowed the Americans working in the states of the union were allowed a valid work visa to maintain the trade and investment. Still, the US’s lack of a similar response hurt the business of the EU executives in the US who were already in peril due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus. The EU investors urged for travel access to the US to oversee their investment. Still, despite restricting the EU citizen from accessing the country, the EU executives were bound to the same fate even though they collected a huge share of the market.

US had opened its border to American tourists wishing the access for essential or non-essential reasons, implementing different state-wise rules and regulations across the EU states for entry in their respective countries on June 23, 2021.

Similarly, the European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen also requested the US to uplift the ban on European Union citizens on August, 5, 2021. During an interview with the German outlet RND, Leyen mentioned that the US and Eu are in the same boat in terms of the Covid-19 situation, both having a similar number of infected rates. But, where the EU is trying to endure the pandemic issues by easing restrictions and implementing different health codes, gradually increasing economic activities, the US has stayed stiff on restrictions. 

The EU commission president made a comment after the continuous US ban as a preventive measure to deal with the Covid-19 issues even though European authorities have frequently been pressuring the US to end the restriction and permit EU travelers entry. Many governments and organizations have continuously criticized the ban. German Mechanical Engineering Industry Association(VCMA) also wrote a letter to the US embassy in Berlin criticizing the ban on German citizens for traveling across the Atlantic.

US Close To Lifting Travel Bans?

According to Reuters, on August 6, 2021, after more than a year and a half of the travel ban due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the US is finally getting ready to ease its restriction for foreign travelers.

Although the ban won’t be lifted immediately due to the surge in delta variant patients globally, the US is optimistic about coming up with strategies to allow foreign visitors from countries that are currently banned if they meet the full vaccination criteria. Reuters revealed that the White House is currently working on the approach of reopening the foreign national traveling with limited exceptions.

The US’s current restrictions apply to travelers who have spent the previous 14 days in countries like China, Iran, Brazil, or the European Schengen. However, US citizens and green card holders are allowed entry even if they are traveling from the restricted regions, including the individuals possessing national interest exception and students traveling to attend school years in the US.

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