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The EU should reinstate restrictions on US travellers because of rising coronavirus infections and hospitalisations, ministers from all 27 member states have warned.
The Council of the EU said on Monday that “following a review” it had removed the US from its list of countries for which temporary restrictions on non-essential travel should be lifted.
The US rate of infection has risen to more than 300 new Covid cases per 100,000 people in the past 14 days according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The EU deems a safe rate of infection to be no more than 75.
Some EU politicians are also frustrated that after the bloc relaxed its rules earlier this year, the US did not reciprocate by lowering its own restrictions on international arrivals.
The proposed ban on non-essential travel is non-binding, so each EU state will have to decide whether to implement it.
Americans fully vaccinated with EU-recognised vaccines would still be able to travel even if their reasons to do so were non-essential, people with direct knowledge of the plans told the Financial Times. The European Medicines Agency recognises the BioNTech/Pfizer, Moderna, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
Much like the EU and UK, the US has experienced a wave of infections over the summer as the Delta variant became dominant. But unlike most of Europe, vaccination rates remain relatively low across large parts of the US, meaning rates have climbed more steeply and deaths have followed.
After a rapid rollout earlier this year, US vaccinations slowed as a significant minority of people became more entrenched in their resistance to getting vaccinated. The US has fully vaccinated 52 per cent of its population, compared with 57 per cent in the EU and 64 per cent in the UK.
As a result, Covid-19 cases in the US have climbed to a level not seen since January according to an FT analysis of public data — more than three times the rate in the EU. In some states, such as Florida, more people are becoming infected every day than at any point during the pandemic.
As a result, while in Europe deaths have remained relatively low the US is logging more than 1,250 a day — double the UK’s rate per capita and four times that of the EU.
European policymakers are frustrated that despite this, the Biden administration has kept its ban on foreigners entering the US from a number of countries, including the UK, Ireland and the Schengen area.
Brussels banned US travellers at the start of the pandemic in 2020 but lifted the restriction in June, enabling free travel between member states for American tourists during Europe’s vital summer season, although specific entry requirements are at the discretion of each country.
EU officials denied suggestions the travel ban was being reinstated because of lack of reciprocity from the US.
The criteria “cover the epidemiological situation and overall response to Covid-19, as well as the reliability of the available information and data sources”, the EU ministers said in a statement. “Reciprocity should also be taken into account on a case-by-case basis.”
Some EU countries kept some restrictions on US travellers even after the bloc-wide ban was dropped. Americans entering France, for instance, must show proof of full vaccination plus a sworn statement that they have not been in contact with someone who had Covid and that they do not have symptoms.
The council of ministers called for the gradual lifting of restrictions on countries including Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
It also recommended restricting travel from Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro and the Republic of North Macedonia. The list was under constant review and would be updated regularly, the council said.
EU countries can intervene to stop international travel immediately if there are growing concerns about rising Covid numbers in any given destination by applying an “emergency brake”, according to the bloc’s guidelines.