Europe Set to Extend Travel Ban for U.S. Residents on Tuesday

European Union governments are poised to extend a travel ban for U.S. residents for at least two weeks, according to a draft of a decision due to be formally adopted on Tuesday.

The wording of the decision, seen by Bloomberg, signals that the ban disrupting both business and leisure travel across the Atlantic won’t be lifted until U.S. authorities control the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. In a move that may not be well received in Washington, the bloc will also lift travel restrictions for Chinese residents as of July 1, on the condition that Beijing confirms that the same applies to EU citizens.

The region’s governments will say that they will only be allowing visits from countries where the average number of infections per 100,000 inhabitants over the past two weeks is similar or below the level of the EU and that the trend of new cases is declining. The list will be subject to biweekly updates, though EU governments could take urgent measures if a situation in one of the approved countries deteriorates, according to the document.

The decision is being put to a vote, and needs the backing from a super majority of EU member states to come into force as of Wednesday. The so-called written procedure for its approval ends on Tuesday at noon in Brussels.

In addition to China, residents of the following countries are set to be allowed to travel to Europe as of July 1: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.

Travel Loopholes

While border controls are a national competence of individual governments, the document commits member states to coordinate their approach and not lift the ban for countries outside the list. Still, there are loopholes: Denmark and Ireland have opted out of the common border policy, meaning they aren’t bound by the decision.

Moreover, U.S. citizens with residence permits in EU countries, European citizens living in the U.S., as well as students, medical professionals and diplomats are still allowed in. Travel within Europe’s Schengen zone doesn’t require any passport controls, complicating enforcement.

A limited number of flights from the U.S. still land in several EU countries, despite a blanket ban in force. According to local U.S. embassy websites, these flights aren’t meant to be used for tourism.

The case of Britain highlights the complexity of enforcing the ban: While flights from the U.K. can’t land in Austria, a Bloomberg reporter recently arrived at Vienna airport from London via Munich and wasn’t checked for a negative test, instructed to undergo quarantine, or questioned otherwise.

An official in Greece, which has also put in place a ban for flights from the U.K. through July 15, acknowledged the loophole. The official said that the policy is meant as discouragement for charter flights and mass tourism, and the authorities are aware that committed travelers have been bypassing the restrictions via connection flights.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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