EU drops US from list of COVID-safe countries for travel


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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium May 5, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman

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By Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -European Union governments agreed on Monday to remove the United States from the EU’s safe travel list, meaning U.S. visitors and those from five other countries are likely to face tighter controls, such as COVID-19 tests and quarantines.

Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro, and North Macedonia have also been taken off. The list seeks to unify travel rules across the bloc, although it does not bind individual EU nations, which are free to determine their own border policies.

Already some EU countries, such as Germany and Belgium, categorise the United States as red, requiring tests and quarantines, while for neighbours France and the Netherlands, the United States is classified as safe.

The list is largely compiled on the basis of the COVID-19 situation in each country, with reciprocity also a factor.

Average daily U.S. COVID-19 cases have risen to more than 450 per million people in the week to Aug 28, compared with below 40 in mid-June when the European Union added the United States to its list, figures from Our World in Data show.

Case rates for Israel, Kosovo and Montenegro are even higher, the data shows.

The EU safe list now comprises 17 countries, including Canada, Japan and New Zealand.

The bloc still lets in most non-EU visitors who are fully vaccinated, although tests and periods of quarantine can apply, depending on the EU country of arrival.

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Despite EU appeals, Washington does not allow European citizens to visit freely. The bloc itself has been divided between those concerned about the lack of reciprocity and increased U.S. cases and others more reliant on tourism and reluctant to restrict U.S. travellers.

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