EU removes US from covid-safe travel list

3 September 2021

Following a spike in infection rates in the US, EU governments have taken the decision to remove the country from its covid-safe travel list. The US had been on the list since June, when the Council of the EU decided to lift restrictions on all American travelers just as the summer tourism season kicked off. At the time, the US had higher vaccination levels than most of Europe, and was seeing relatively low transmission rates.

The EU’s new recommendation differentiates between vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers; so fully vaccinated travelers will still be allowed to travel as long as they can show a negative Covid-19 test result taken within 72 hours of arrival into the EU.

The decision was made as the EU reached the European Commission President von der Leyen’s symbolic milestone of 70% of the adult population now being fully vaccinated on Tuesday. The fragility of this significant success is believed to be the main reason behind the reimposition of restrictions, with Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro and North Macedonia also being added back onto the list. 

However, the decision is non-binding i.e. Member States can still decide to allow in US travelers. Ireland, for example, will not change its travel rules for people arriving into Ireland from the US. It is expected that several other Member States will follow suit. 

The US never removed the EU from its non-safe travel list – a move that had angered many Europeans and been the issue of several discussions between EU and US officials over the summer period. This new tightening of restrictions could be seen as retaliatory.  

The US is now seeing more than 150,000 cases per day, and some areas are experiencing the highest hospitalisation numbers for COVID-19 patients since the pandemic began. As the US enters what appears to be a fourth wave, the EU may be justified in this move.