The European Union could remove the United States from a list of countries that its member states are advised to allow the free entry of visitors amidst the pandemic. The list is set for review in the coming days and EU sources have been briefing journalists behind the scenes that the U.S. is likely to face COVID-19 travel sanctions because of a spike in infections.
The decision is widely seen as retaliation for President Biden’s refusal to drop the controversial 212(f) travel restrictions that ban foreign visitors from entering the U.S. if they have spent any time in the past 14-days in one of Europe’s 26 Schengen zone countries, as well as the Republic of Ireland.
Last week, European Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen hit out at the continuing restrictions, saying Europe demanded “comparable rules for travelers in both directions”. Von der Leyen told German media company RND that the Biden administration had just weeks to develop a solution and get the ban lifted.
The White House has insisted that it won’t lift the ban citing concerns over the Delta variant despite the fact that Delta is already the dominant variant in the United States and the infection rate is climbing above the EU average.
As well as no longer meeting the EU’s infection rate threshold, the Commission said it could impose a travel restriction advisory based on “reciprocity considerations”. Despite the best efforts of the Commission, the U.S. does not meet this test either.
But just because the United States might be removed from the EU’s travel safe list, doesn’t mean American tourists will necessarily be banned from visiting Europe. It is up to individual member states to impose their own restrictions and although they agreed to take a common approach to restrictions they can also ignore the recommendations of the Commission.
Last week, the White House mooted the idea of reopening travel by limiting entry to the United States to fully vaccinated visitors only. That would allow President Biden to drop the 212(f) travel restrictions but the idea has received a lukewarm reception from the travel industry because it would severely limit the number of visitors able to enter the U.S. from countries where the vaccine rollout has been slower.
It’s also not known whether the vaccination requirement would only apply to foreign visitors of U.S. citizens as well. Anyone entering the U.S. by plane is already required to prove their negative COVID-19 status by providing evidence of a test taken within three days of travel.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.