EU Expected to Discuss Reimposing Travel Curbs on U.S.

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The European Union is likely to discuss reintroducing travel restrictions on visitors from the U.S. next week as coronavirus case numbers rise again.

The U.S. has breached the threshold to be included among non-EU countries that enjoy unrestricted travel into the bloc, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The EU lifted restrictions on the U.S. in June, adding it to a list of countries from where non-essential travel into the bloc is allowed, after America’s epidemiological situation met the bloc’s criteria.

But the latest data show the U.S. is now well above the EU limit of no more than 75 new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the previous 14 days. The rate is just under 270 cases per 100,000 and increasing, said the person who asked not to be identified because the matter is private.

Removing the U.S. from the list would require agreement among a qualified majority of member states.

The restrictions would apply to non-essential travel. However, fully vaccinated people should still be able to enter EU countries, the person said.

Trans-Atlantic travel has surged since the bloc began allowing U.S. travelers over the summer.

That’s driven a rapid rebound in the European aviation industry to almost 70% of pre-pandemic capacity, according to OAG data, even though the U.S. hasn’t reciprocated on travel access.

Routes between the EU and U.S. have recovered to almost 50% of pre-pandemic levels after Brussels chose to let in fully vaccinated Americans. Removing restriction-free access to U.S. travelers could be a major blow for carriers including the likes of Deutsche Lufthansa AG and Air France-KLM.

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.

A spokeswoman for Airlines for Europe, a trade group that respresentes European airlines, said that despite the spread of the delta variant, “increasing vaccination levels means the incident rate should not be the only criteria dictating policy decisions.”

The recent sharp rise on U.S. Covid cases, though, has been most apparent in states with lower vaccination rates.

The seven-day average of Covid-19 cases in the U.S. is now around 100,000 per day, up from under 20,000 as recently as early June.

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