The European Council announced on Monday that five countries and one territory have been removed from its recommended safe list of countries.
The countries and territories that were removed as of August 30th were Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro, the Republic of North Macedonia and the United States of America.
The latest move by the EU is however non-binding and individual member states are free to set their own border restrictions and quarantine rules when it comes to Covid, as they have done since the start of the pandemic.
Why has the US been removed?
The move follows a steep rise in Covid rates in both the US and Israel sparked by the spread of the more contagious Delta variant.
The EU Council bases its decision on “the epidemiological situation and overall response to COVID-19, as well as the reliability of the available information and data sources.”
It also takes into account reciprocity, in other words how countries treat travellers from EU countries.
In recent weeks there has been heightened pressure to remove the US from the list, not only due to rising Covid rates but also because the US still bars non-essential travel from European countries.
What does this mean in reality?
As stated above the EU’s list safe list for non-essential travel is non-binding meaning EU member states as well as Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Iceland are free to set their own rules for travel.
European countries may follow the EU’s lead and tighten restrictions such as quarantine measures or they could simply ignore the recommendation. Most EU countries reopened their border to travel from the US earlier in the summer in a bid to boost their tourism industry, but that was at a time when Covid rates in the US had plummeted.
Readers are recommended to keep a close eye on The Local’s individual country websites where any changes in travel rules will be reported on as soon as they are announced.
What does this mean for American travellers?
For vaccinated Americans nothing much should change, but it depends on where you’re travelling to as countries are allowed to set their own rules.
The EU recommends that anyone vaccinated should be allowed to travel to Europe as long as they are vaccinated with an EU or WHO approved vaccine and had the last recommended dose at least 14 days before travel, as well as so-called “essential travellers” (see below) and all travellers from countries on the safe list, which includes the likes of Australia, New Zealand and China.
So the big change for travellers from the US to Europe – if countries follow up on the new recommendation – would be those who are not vaccinated and are travelling for “non-essential” reasons. But not all countries have separate rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers.
The EU states that essential travel basically covers EU citizens and their families, EU residents and their families as well as “travellers with an essential function or need”.
It’s also worth pointing out that the US currently advises its citizens against travel to most European countries.
Which countries and territories remain on the list?
- Bosnia and Hercegovina
- Brunei Darussalam
- New Zealand
- Republic of Moldova
- Saudi Arabia
- South Korea
- China (plus Hong Kong and Macao)
The list is reviewed every two weeks.