EU nears fi­nal travel list; US un­likely to make cut

USA TODAY US Edition - - NATION’S HEALTH - AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Euro­pean Union en­voys are close to fi­nal­iz­ing a list of coun­tries whose cit­i­zens will be al­lowed to en­ter Europe again, pos­si­bly late next week, EU diplo­mats con­firmed Satur­day. Amer­i­cans are al­most cer­tain to be ex­cluded in the short term due to the num­ber of U.S. coro­n­avirus cases.

The en­voys were ex­pected to have nar­rowed down later Satur­day the ex­act cri­te­ria for coun­tries to make the list, which in­clude the way the spread of the virus is be­ing man­aged. An­other key con­di­tion is whether the coun­try has a ban on cit­i­zens from Euro­pean na­tions.

The num­ber of cases in the United States has surged over the past week, with an all-time high of 45,300 con­firmed new daily in­fec­tions just reached. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump also sus­pended the en­try of all peo­ple from Europe’s ID check-free travel zone in a de­cree in March.

The EU diplo­mats con­firmed that an of­fi­cial agree­ment on the cri­te­ria — likely to in­clude a limit on the in­fec­tion rate per 100,000 cit­i­zens — is ex­pected late on Mon­day or early Tues­day. The diplo­mats spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause the pro­ce­dure is on­go­ing and po­lit­i­cally very sen­si­tive.

In­fec­tion rates are high in Brazil, In­dia and Rus­sia, and it’s un­likely the EU will let their cit­i­zens in, ei­ther. The list would be up­dated ev­ery 14 days, with new coun­tries added and some pos­si­bly be­ing left off based on how they man­age the spread of the virus.

More than 15 mil­lion Amer­i­cans are es­ti­mated to travel to Europe an­nu­ally, and any de­lay would be a fur­ther blow to virus-rav­aged economies and tourism sec­tors, both in Europe and the United States. Around 10 mil­lion Euro­peans are thought to cross the At­lantic for va­ca­tions and busi­ness each year.

The 27 EU na­tions and four other coun­tries that are part of Europe’s “Schen­gen area” — a 26-na­tion bloc where goods and peo­ple move freely with­out doc­u­ment checks — ap­pear on track to re­open their bor­ders be­tween each other by July 1.

Once that hap­pens, re­stric­tions on nonessen­tial travel to Europe, im­posed in March to halt cases from en­ter­ing, would grad­u­ally be lifted.

On Thurs­day, U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo played down con­cerns that the EU might refuse to al­low Amer­i­cans in.

“We’ve de­nied travel to Europe and vice versa. That’s the pos­ture that we all sit in now, and I think we’re all tak­ing se­ri­ously the need to fig­ure out how to get this up,” Pom­peo said. “We’ll work to get this right. We want to make sure that it’s health-based, sci­ence-based.

“We need to get our global econ­omy back go­ing again.”

The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, which mon­i­tors the bloc’s laws, be­lieves that “travel re­stric­tions should not be lifted as re­gards third coun­tries where the sit­u­a­tion is worse” than the av­er­age in the 27 EU mem­ber coun­tries plus Ice­land, Liecht­en­stein, Nor­way and Switzer­land.

The com­mis­sion in­sists that it’s not try­ing to tar­get any coun­try or that the list might be politi­cized.

“The Euro­pean Union has an in­ter­nal pro­cess to de­ter­mine from which coun­tries it would be safe to ac­cept trav­el­ers,” spokesman Eric Mamer said Thurs­day, adding that its de­ci­sions are “based on health cri­te­ria.”

KENZO TRIBOUILLA­RD/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Pas­sen­gers wear­ing pro­tec­tive face masks queue at the board­ing gate at Brus­sels Air­port in Zaven­tem on June 15.

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