EU Excludes U.S. and Others From Lifting of Travel Ban

 - June 30, 2020, 11:32 AM

This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.

The European Union on Tuesday confirmed it will list the ban on non-essential travel for 15 countries from July 1. Countries from which travel into the EU will continue to be blocked include the U.S., Brazil, Russia and India, based on their high rates of Covid-19 infection.

The 15 countries for which the EU is lifting restrictions are as follows: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay, along with China (subject to it agreeing on reciprocal access). The move also applies to Schengen Area associated states, namely Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, and also to the UK during the transition period following its exit from the EU.

In a June 30 statement, the European Council said it would review the list of countries from which travel into the EU will be permitted every two weeks. It said it assesses countries according to a set of epidemiological criteria as follows: the number of new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants reported over the previous 14 days must be close to or below the EU average (as of June 15, 2020); there must be a stable or decreasing trend of new cases; and the EU’s assessment of each country’s overall response to the crisis in terms of testing, surveillance, contact tracing, containment, treatment and reporting, and transparency over data.

Exemptions will continue to apply for EU citizens and their family members, long-term EU residents and their family members, and travelers needing to enter the EU to perform essential functions as defined by the European Commission in its original travel ban.

The decision to continue to exclude the U.S. reportedly divided EU member states and delayed confirmation of the planned partial lifting of the travel ban. Some states expressed concern about the effect on tourism and the possibility that the move could provoke retaliation from the Trump Administration.

The U.S. still imposes an open-ended ban on travel from the EU, as well as from the UK, Iran, China, and Brazil. According to a March Presidential Proclamation, the Health and Human Services Secretary would recommend to President Trump whether or not to lift restrictions on any country. The department did not respond to two separate requests from AIN for confirmation on when and under what circumstances such a recommendation might happen. AIN also approached the Airlines for America trade organization to ask whether they would urge the U.S. government to lift the ban, but it did not respond either. 

Meanwhile, on June 28, UK transport secretary Grant Shapps said that the country’s controversial requirement for travelers to quarantine for 14 days after arrival will gradually lift later this week. He said that the government will issue a list of countries to which the requirement will no longer apply, expected to include a handful of countries with which the UK has managed to agree on so-called air bridge or travel corridor arrangements.

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s latest Global Business Barometer report, consumer attitudes to business travel might be changing in the Covid-19 environment. The results of a survey published on June 30 showed that 51 percent of respondents said that the “most popular” government action to help the economy and business recover would be continued limits on international travel. That trend marked a significant shift since the previous survey in April, which ranked limitations on international travel as a low priority.

“Now that travel restrictions have been demonstrably effective in many instances against the spread [of the virus], we see a mix of resignation and adaptation amongst executives on the issue,” concluded the report’s authors. “Teleconferencing services, though imperfect substitutes and not without issues, have proven to be enough for ensuring business continuity, so much that a large number of firms are offering employees the ability to work from home indefinitely. In addition, road-weary executives report finding lighter travel schedules liberating, perhaps indicating that fewer business trips will prove a persistent trend.”