The European Union said it would recommend member countries ease travel restrictions for residents of a select group of non-EU countries starting tomorrow—but the United States is not on the list, in a rebuke to the government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
On Tuesday, the EU’s European Council said that residents of 14 countries—including Canada, South Korea, Japan and Australia—would be exempt from current travel restrictions, which largely block non-EU citizens from entering the region. That restriction has been in place since mid-March.
China was tentatively left on the exemption list, though its inclusion is subject to confirmation of reciprocity—in other words, that EU citizens will be allowed to enter China too, the Council said.
Affiliated countries, including Switzerland and Norway, are also part of the agreement, while the U.K. is de facto included, as the country is still in a “transition period” in terms of its departure from the bloc.
The EU laid out a series of circumstances that any outside country must meet if it wants entry to the bloc, mostly in terms of the scale and handling of its COVID-19 cases.
Those include that the number of cases be at or less than the EU’s own current cases per 100,000 inhabitants, as it stood from June 15, and that the rate of infections remained stable or were falling over the last 14 days. It also takes into consideration the country’s “overall response” to the virus, including its record on testing and tracing, treatment, and the transparency of its virus reporting.
The guidelines are not legally binding, the Council noted—member countries may selectively ease their travel restrictions as they wish.
European countries including Italy and Spain were hit hard and early by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the region has since seen its overall infection rate fall sharply even as the economies gradually reopen. On Monday, tourist-dependent Italy reported 126 new cases and just six COVID-19 cases, a several-month low.
Meanwhile, the epicenter of the virus has moved west. Although the U.S. has a smaller population than the EU as a whole, it has seen a larger number of positive cases of COVID-19.
As of June 30, roughly 1.6 million positive cases of COVID-19 have been reported across the EU, with 176,800 deaths, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. That is across a total population of about 446 million inhabitants, not including the U.K.
Data from the CDC as of Monday reported the U.S. has had roughly 2.5 million positive cases of COVID-19, with 126,369 deaths, across a population of roughly 382 million.
Here’s the full list of countries permitted to resume travel to the EU:
- New Zealand
- South Korea
- China, subject to confirmation of reciprocity
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