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European Union bans entrance to U.S.-based travelers

One travel association says the decision is a step in the wrong direction

Photo (c) borchee - Getty Images
The clock is ticking fast for Americans who want to fly to Europe. Effective Wednesday, the European Union (EU) is closing its borders to all U.S.-based travelers.

The EU has decided that the U.S. is being a little too freewheeling when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, so it established a new policy to protect the people within its borders. The U.S. isn’t the only country being kept out. Both Russian and Brazilian citizens are also on the do-not-enter list.

Who’s in and who’s out?

The safe list of 15 nations that EU countries have signed off on includes Australia, Canada, Japan, and New Zealand. The Union says it will also let in travelers from China if the country offers the same in return. 

One little wrinkle in the policy is that the EU will take into account a traveler’s country of residence -- not of citizenship. That means if a citizen of Spain happens to be living in Chicago, they’ll be treated the same as anyone else living in the United States.

However, there are some marked exceptions. They include anyone from a country outside the safe list who meets one of the following descriptions:

  • Asylum seeker

  • Diplomat

  • Foreign worker whose employment in Europe qualifies as essential

  • Health care worker

  • Humanitarian worker

  • Someone traveling for “imperative family reasons”

  • Students

The EU said that its list is not etched in stone and that its list of countries will be reviewed every two weeks.

“Travel restrictions may be totally or partially lifted or reintroduced for a specific third country already listed according to changes in some of the conditions and, as a consequence, in the assessment of the epidemiological situation,” the EU said in a news release. 

“If the situation in a listed third country worsens quickly, rapid decision-making should be applied.”

Potential economic impact

The move is a rather delicate dance for the EU. Since the coronavirus took over everyone’s life, it created a can of worms for the coalition of countries. In normal times, its 27 member states are free to travel and trade, much like we can go state-to-state in the U.S. 

But, as the pandemic started crossing borders within the bloc, individual countries created policies of their own which didn’t always jive with the policies other members were creating. The EU made it clear it wants to get back to that same level of reciprocity it enjoyed prior to the outbreak.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials have voiced their extreme disappointment with the EU’s decision. Tori Emerson Barnes, the U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President for Public Affairs and Policy, said that the travel ban will likely result in a stalled economic recovery.

"The E.U.'s announcement is incredibly disappointing, and a step in the wrong direction as we seek to rebuild our global economy,” she said. "In the U.S. alone, travel-related jobs account for more than a third of lost employment due to the fallout of the pandemic. Health is paramount, and the public has a major role to play by embracing best practices such as wearing masks, but we are at a stage when it should be possible to make progress.”

"This is unwelcome news, and will have major negative implications for an economic recovery -- particularly if this ban results in cycles of retaliation, as is so often the case,” Barnes concluded.

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