Europe to ban American travel as U.S. struggles to contain pandemic

The European Union is debating over two lists of nations from which it will accept travelers starting July 1.

Americans protesting the COVID-19 lockdown in Florida.

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA - MAY 01: Janet Klomburg (L) and Terry Tignor join with others to show their support for President Donald Trump on May 01, 2020 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The protesters said they want to open the country, economy and their freedom as well as show their support for President Trump.

Joe Raedle / Getty
  • The EU has slowed the spread of COVID-19 in most regions, while cases in the U.S. continue to grow.
  • The U.S. is reportedly excluded from both lists of "accepted nations," but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested the U.S. may reach an agreement with European officials.
  • A ban on American travel would surely have political consequences for the Trump administration.

The European Union is preparing to block Americans from traveling to member nations when borders begin to reopen on July 1.

European officials are debating over two lists of nations from which travelers would be accepted into the Union, starting next month. Not included on both lists are nations that have struggled to contain the pandemic, such as Uganda, Cuba, Vietnam, Russia, Brazil, and the United States.

However, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. may strike an agreement with European officials.

"We've been working with them for quite some time on this," Pompeo said at a press briefing. "I am confident that we will find a set of conditions that create sufficient health and safety protections."

That may be true. But after looking at one EU checklist for determining which nations should be deemed acceptable for incoming travel, it's hard to see how the U.S. meets the criteria. The checklist suggests nations should be "comparable or better epidemiological situation as the average in the EU+ area with regard to":

  • Number of new infections
  • Trend in new infections
  • Response to COVID-19 taking into account available information on aspects such as: testing, surveillance, contact tracing, containment, treatment, and reporting

The U.S. has reported more than 2.4 million cases and 123,000 deaths, making it the worst-hit nation in the world. On Wednesday, American officials reported 36,880 new cases — a one-day record. Texas, California and Florida have reported surges of new cases and hospitalizations in recent days, casting a shadow over other states aiming to soon relax restrictions and reopen businesses.

Meanwhile, Europe has mostly slowed the spread of COVID-19. The notification rate of new cases in the Union "was 82% lower than at the peak on 9 April 2020," according to a European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control report published on June 18.

In March, President Donald Trump banned most travel from Europe, excluding U.S. citizens and travelers from the U.K. If the EU bans travel from the U.S., it would likely be seen as an implicit rebuke of how American officials have handled the pandemic.

Trump has consistently framed the nation's response to COVID-19 in a positive light. At a rally in Oklahoma last weekend, Trump said he plans to reduce COVID-19 testing in the U.S. in order to make the data seem better. Administration officials claimed he was joking. But Trump later insisted he was serious.

Although a ban on American travel would surely have political implications, European officials said they were trying to keep the list as scientific and non-political as possible, according to the New York Times.

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