The European Union will discuss on Thursday whether to reintroduce travel restrictions on visitors from the U.S. as new coronavirus cases soar.
Slovenia, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU and is currently responsible for triggering an assessment of countries that are allowed non-essential travel into the bloc, recommended that the U.S. be removed from the list, according to two officials familiar with the plans.
The U.S. had 507 new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the previous 14 days as of Aug. 15, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. That’s well above the limit of 75 set out in the EU guidelines.
The rules also specify that the trend of new cases should be stable or decreasing and that no more than 4% of those tested for the virus are positive. The guidelines also take into account whether variants of concern have been detected in the nation concerned and whether a country has reciprocated on opening travel.
The guidance from the bloc is a recommendation and any decision on who to let in, and what restrictions to impose, ultimately rests with the governments of each member state. While countries have largely followed the EU guidelines, there have been times when individual nations have diverged from them.
The latest proposal recommends removing several other countries, including Israel, said the officials, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.
Easing access between the EU and U.S. has been a point of contention between the two regions. The Biden administration has kept foreign travel restrictions in place despite pressure to allow visitors from places like the EU. U.S. officials have cited rising delta variant cases as one reason for that decision.
Airline routes between the EU and U.S. rebounded to almost 50% of pre-pandemic levels after Brussels chose to let in fully vaccinated Americans in June. The number of scheduled seats from the U.S. to western Europe was 8.6 million so far this year, according to OAG data. That compares to 30.1 million in the same period in 2019.
The bloc’s decision to bar U.S. visitors will be a blow to long-haul carriers such as Deutsche Lufthansa AG and Air France-KLM, which were expecting a full reopening on transatlantic routes. This month, Lufthansa said it sees North America opening up from late summer with Asia following from the end of the year, while Air France was planning to offer 70% of its usual seating predicting a return to profitability for the three months through September.
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