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. – The European Union has formally agreed on a set of recommendations that will allow travelers from outside the bloc to visit EU countries, months after it closed its external borders in response to the covid-19 outbreak.
As widely expected, the list of 14 countries does not include the United States, whose current rate of covid infection does not meet the criteria established by the EU for it to be considered a “safe country”.
The criterion requires that confirmed cases of covid in the listed countries be similar to or lower than those in the EU per 100,000 citizens during the previous 14 days (as of June 15).
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Countries should also have a “stable or decreasing trend of new cases during this period compared to the previous 14 days”, while the EU will consider what measures countries are taking, such as contact tracing, and how reliable are the data of each nation.
The United States has not only the highest number of reported coronavirus infections of any nation, currently more than 2.5 million, but also the highest number of deaths, at 126,141, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
Earlier this week, at least 16 US states were reported to be stopping plans to reopen, as covid infections increased across the country.
The European Union list is expected to be reviewed every two weeks, however, EU diplomats were eager to emphasize Tuesday that it was “highly unlikely” that the criteria for listing would be altered.
This means that infection rates in the US will need to drop dramatically to allow Americans to enter European countries, while the European tourism industry enters what are traditionally its peak months.
China, where the virus originated, is not on the initial list of 14 countries, but the EU is willing to put it on that list if the Chinese government corresponds and allows EU citizens to enter its borders.
Travelers in countries not on the list can still enter if they fall under the following exemptions: EU citizens or relatives of an EU citizen; long-term EU residents or family members; those with an “essential function or need,” such as diplomats, health workers, or certain agricultural workers.
While the recommendations and the list of countries are clear, border control is something that is handled at the national level, rather than at the EU level in Brussels. As the Council says, the recommendation “is not a legally binding instrument. Member State authorities remain responsible for implementing the content of the recommendation. “
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However, Member States are not expected to deviate from the recommendations in a direction that would allow more countries to be added to their lists.
The decision was delayed more than two hours after at least two countries asked for the deadline to be postponed, amid concerns over opening risks. EU sources told CNN that at least three countries had abstained on the recommendations for the same reasons.
The list of countries included in the recommendations are: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay.
The recommendations are expected to take effect from July 1, however, it is up to member states to decide exactly how to implement any changes in border policy.
EU officials had previously emphasized to CNN that the decisions made this week are not political, but based on science and only aimed at protecting citizens from the virus that is re-emerging across the continent. However, those same officials await the response from the President of the United States, Donald Trump, who previously attacked the EU on other issues, such as trade and foreign policy.