The European Union on Tuesday extended a ban on travelers from the United States and most other countries beyond July 1, citing epidemiological factors for the decision.
Over the past month, the US has seen its number of cases steadily rise after most states eased lockdown measures. A lack of interstate coordination and an uneven response from the federal government has contributed to several new outbreaks across the country.
Other countries whose travel restrictions were extended include Brazil, Russia and India, which have seen their number of positive cases surge in recent weeks. The US, Brazil, Russia and India are the countries with the highest number of confirmed cases in the world.
European Council President Charles Michel said that the EU will continue to "monitor the situation regularly" as the bloc relaxes travel restrictions for 14 countries.
"We have to remain vigilant and keep our most vulnerable safe," Michel wrote on Twitter.
14 countries approved for travel
Meanwhile, the EU has approved visitors from Australia, Canada and Japan. Chinese travelers will be allowed to visit pending reciprocal access to China for EU visitors.
Other countries approved for EU travel include Algeria, Georgia, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.
The countries were chosen based on certain criteria, including that the number of new cases over a 14-day period had to be "close to order below the EU average." The countries also needed to have a "stable or decreasing trend of new cases over this period."
The UK will be treated as part of the EU, according to the Council, until the end of the year. The UK currently has a mandatory quarantine period of 14 days for those traveling to the country. Other EU countries have already withdrawn similar mandatory periods.
In due time
The list of permitted countries is technically a recommendation. According to the European Council, member states will have the final say in how the restrictions are eased for countries on the list.
"The authorities of the member states remain responsible for implementing the content of the recommendation," said the Council. "They may, in full transparency, lift only progressively travel restrictions towards countries listed."
The EU has kept a travel ban in place at its external borders since mid-March. The ban was extended to non-EU Schengen area member states, including Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
The list of banned and permitted countries will be updated every 14 days to take into account progress or lack thereof, according to the Council.
'It gets worse'
Europe's tourism industry is still reeling from restrictions that have all but upended the sector. An extended travel ban on American tourists means a major source of income won't be coming any time soon.
"Americans were 50% of my clientele," said Paola Pellizzari, who runs a jewelry and mask shop in the heart of Paris. "We can't substitute that clientele with another."
More than 15 million Americans travel to Europe each year, many in the summer, long considered the continent's peak tourism season. The European Commission has described the EU's tourism industry as "one of the ecosystems most affected by the coronavirus."
"As days go by, and I listen to the business owners, it gets worse," said Pellizzari. "When I returned after lockdown, five businesses had closed."
For Europeans, traveling to the US also remains an elusive dream.
US President Donald Trump has maintained a ban on EU nationals from entering the country since mid-March. The White House has yet to signal its intention to ease that ban in the near future as US health authorities struggle to contain a new wave of the deadly pathogen.
ls/rs (dpa, AP, AFP)