EU nations could block US tourists over virus response

European officials are discussing what tourists will initially be allowed to visit, but Americans are not on the list, officials have revealed, because of their lacklustre response to the pandemic

by AFP
EU nations could block US tourists over virus response
Medical personnel wearing protective suits transport the body of a Covid-19 patient to a medical centre in New York in April 2020. The US has had nearly 2.4 million infections and over 123,000 deaths, which is more than any other country. That record may mean they cannot travel to Europe for some time. Photo: Angela Weiss / AFP

EU nations may close their borders to US travellers as they seek to reopen their economies to tourism because of how Washington has handled the pandemic, The New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing unnamed European officials.

One official involved in talks among European Union members about who should be allowed to visit the bloc shared draft lists of acceptable travellers – Americans were not on them.

A second official involved in the talks confirmed the lists, which have not been made public, and two others confirmed their content. 

It was not clear if US officials were made aware in advance of the fact that Americans would be excluded when the EU progressively reopens to those outside the bloc from July 1.

Both draft lists would allow travellers from China, where the virus emerged late last year, but exclude Americans, as well as Brazilians and Russians.

The officials interviewed by the Times said the United States could later be added to the list of acceptable travellers if the country's coronavirus case numbers drop.

But those officials said it was "highly unlikely" that an exception would initially be made for the United States, the Times reported.

The report also makes clear that the composition of the lists is still in flux and could be changed before the deadline.

The US is by far the nation hardest hit by the deadly novel coronavirus, with more than 2.3 million cases and more than 120,000 deaths confirmed.

EU countries have largely been closed to all non-bloc citizens, except in cases of "essential travel," since mid-March.

Similarly, the United States closed its borders to most European nationals around the same time.

Spikes in infection rates in several US states have worried European officials about the possibility that travellers could spark a second wave of infections on the continent.

But barring US tourists could mean millions of dollars in lost tourism revenue for countries trying to get back on their feet economically after months of lockdowns.

Indeed, some EU countries have already opened their borders to non-EU visitors.