The European Council's decision to remove the U.S.A. from a list of safe countries for nonessential travel is a reverse of the June advice, which recommended that all U.S. tourists be allowed to travel before the summer tourism season.
The EU's decision is a reflection of growing concern that the spread of the virus could be as far as Europe, at a time when Americans can travel to Europe. The more contagious delta variant has caused an increase in infections in both the EU and the U.S.
However, the guidance Monday was not binding. American tourists can expect a mix of travel rules across Europe since there is no single EU COVID-19 policy. National EU governments are also able to decide whether or not they want to close their borders during the pandemic.
More than 15 million Americans a year visited Europe before the coronavirus crisis, and new travel restrictions could cost European businesses billions in lost travel revenues, especially in tourism-reliant countries like Croatia, which has been surprised by packed beaches and hotels this summer.
The council stated in a statement that "nonessential travel to EU from countries or entities (not on the safe list) is prohibited" "This does not preclude member states from lifting the temporary travel restriction that prevents non-essential travel to the EU for fully vaccinated travellers.
The bloc approved vaccines include Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson&Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna.
U.S. citizens may be subject to quarantines or additional testing upon arrival.
Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary, stressed Monday in Washington that EU travel restrictions apply to unvaccinated persons. She also said that people need to be vaccinated to slow down the spread of deadly viruses.
Paski stated to reporters that the U.S. government was working with federal agencies to create its own international travel policy. This could include strengthening testing protocols or ensuring foreign visitors are fully vaccinated. She said that no decision was made yet.
Britain has formally departed the EU in January and has opened its borders to all fully-vaccinated visitors from the U.S. since then.
The United States is still on Britain's "amber travel list", meaning that adults who have been fully vaccinated and are traveling from the U.S. to Britain don't need to isolate themselves. It is necessary to have a negative COVID-19 test done within three days of arriving in the U.K. A second negative test must be taken two days later.
On Monday, the EU removed Israel, Kosovo and Montenegro from its safe travel list.
Despite repeated requests from the bloc, the United States has not yet opened its borders to EU tourists. Adalbert Jahnz from the European Commission spokeswoman for home affairs said Monday that while the EU's executive arm was still in talks with the Biden administration, both have so far failed to reach a reciprocal agreement.
The European Council stated that in addition to epidemiological criteria for determining which countries should be granted restrictions, "reciprocity should also been taken into consideration on a case by case basis."
Based on coronavirus infection levels, the European Council updates the safe travel lists every two weeks. A threshold to be included on the EU safe travel list is 75 new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents in the past 14 days.
The U.S. is currently experiencing more than 155,000 coronavirus infections and 1,200 deaths per hour. Additionally, several states in the U.S. have more COVID-19-infected patients than any other time during this pandemic.
Oregon authorities are looking for refrigerated trucks to help them cope with the overflowing morgues. Florida is also in similar position after more than 1,700 people were infected last week. There are already fears that the situation will worsen with millions of unvaccinated students returning to school, as hospitals across the country are running out of staff.
U.S. school districts are battling over whether to impose mandatory masks. Sometimes, they even sue in states that do not allow such mandates.
Vaccine hesitancy is still a problem in many U.S. locations, where 61% are inoculated against this virus. The UK has vaccinated 78% of its adults, while the EU has inoculated almost 70% of those aged over 18.