BRUSSELS — The European Union is ready to bar most travelers from the United States, Russia, and dozens of other countries considered too risky because they have not controlled the coronavirus outbreak, E.U. officials said Friday.
By contrast, travelers from more than a dozen countries that are not overwhelmed by the coronavirus are set to be welcomed when the bloc reopens after months of lockdown on July 1. The acceptable countries also include China — but only if China allows European Union travelers to visit as well, the officials said.
The list of safe countries was completed by E.U. senior diplomats in Brussels after tortuous negotiations on how to reopen the 27-member bloc to commerce and tourism under a common set of standards after months of lockdown.
The list was backed in principle by most E.U. ambassadors and does not require unanimous support, but still needs to be formalized in member states’ capitals as well as in the central European Union bureaucracy before taking effect July 1. Diplomats did not expect the list to change.
E.U. officials first disclosed on Tuesday that the United States, which has reported more coronavirus deaths and infections than any other country, was highly unlikely to make the final list.
The exclusion of the United States, an important source of tourism to the European Union, represented a stinging rebuke to the Trump administration’s management of the coronavirus scourge.
Countries that made the safe list, which include Canada and Australia, were judged on a mix of scientific criteria that included their infection rates and the credibility of their public health reporting data. The list will be updated every two weeks, raising the possibility that excluded countries will be added.
The officials who revealed the contents of the final list spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of its official release next week.
Deciding how to carefully open up travel to outsiders and restart the economy without worsening an already precarious health situation in Europe has been contentious, with senior officials meeting for hours at least six times in the past few weeks.
European Union officials tried to base their decision on scientific criteria, in part to depoliticize the process and shield themselves from diplomatic pressures. But it’s proven to be difficult, and officials said the United States and other nations had been lobbying intensely to get on the safe list.
The United States, which banned most European Union travelers in March when the virus was raging in Europe, has not eased its own restrictions since then, even though European infections and deaths have dropped.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, asked on Thursday about the prospect of a prolonged ban on American travel to Europe, struck a conciliatory tone, but said that many European countries were eager to admit American visitors.
“We’ll work closely with our European friends, broadly, because I know there’s different views,” Mr. Pompeo said during a virtual conference organized by the German Marshall Fund.
“We’ve heard from a dozen or more countries that have very different views about their willingness to open up their borders to anyone, not only folks from the United States of America,” he said.
Although travel between the United States and Europe has been severely limited by lockdown restrictions, exceptions have been made. A regular flight between Newark and Amsterdam, for example, is limited to essential travelers such as diplomats and health care professionals, and for repatriating Europeans from the United States.
Creation of a common list of outsiders who can enter the European Union is part of an effort by the bloc to fully reopen internal borders among its 27 member states. Free travel and trade among members — a core principle akin to the freedom of movement within the United States — has been badly disrupted.
Since the outbreak, the bloc has succumbed to piecemeal national policies that have produced an incoherent patchwork of open and closed borders.
While the new list is not legally binding, member states that open up to excluded countries face the risk that their E.U. partners will close their borders to them — reinforcing the disjointed response to the pandemic that the bloc has been striving to overcome.
Several European Union countries, particularly those in the south that benefit from American tourism, had pushed to make the common list dependent on both scientific and economic criteria. Seven million Americans visited Europe between June and August last year, according to U.S. government data.
Greece, for example, depends on tourism for one-fifth of its economy. In the scramble to salvage part of the summer tourism season, Greece has ignored the European Union’s current recommended ban, permitting visitors and committing resources to testing and quarantining them upon arrival.
The complexity of this approach became clear in early June, when a flight from Doha, Qatar, to Athens with 91 passengers aboard included 12 who tested positive for the virus. All were quarantined, and all flights from Doha were suspended.
Like Greece, countries such as Spain, Cyprus, Italy and Portugal see a broad list of acceptable visitors as critical for tourist income. They have prepared health screenings of arriving foreigners in order to accept the risk of infection more confidently. Both Spain and Greece currently allow a small number of visitors from outside the European Union.
Frequently Asked Questions and Advice
Updated June 24, 2020
What’s the best material for a mask?
Scientists around the country have tried to identify everyday materials that do a good job of filtering microscopic particles. In recent tests, HEPA furnace filters scored high, as did vacuum cleaner bags, fabric similar to flannel pajamas and those of 600-count pillowcases. Other materials tested included layered coffee filters and scarves and bandannas. These scored lower, but still captured a small percentage of particles.
Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?
A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.
I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?
The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.
What is pandemic paid leave?
The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.
Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?
So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.
What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?
Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.
How does blood type influence coronavirus?
A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.
How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?
The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.
How can I protect myself while flying?
If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)
What should I do if I feel sick?
If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.
For other European Union countries, the risks of that approach outweigh the benefits.
The Netherlands, a key transfer point for goods from the rest of the world to Europe, sees open internal European Union borders as essential to its economy, and so has been reluctant to encourage a liberal reopening to outsiders if the price is shuttered internal borders because of health concerns.
The conundrum is in some ways similar to a decision this week by New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to impose mandatory quarantines on travelers from other states where the virus is flaring, like Florida and Texas.
The competing demands within the European Union have highlighted the difficulties in restoring the global network of leisure and business travel that was virtually shut down by the pandemic.
The criteria for the list, which will be revisited every two weeks to add countries that are doing much better or remove those that have worsened, has been a major challenge for European Union diplomats.
The full list finalized on Friday includes Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay, Andorra, San Marino, Monaco and the Vatican. China will be included if it also opens its borders to European Union travelers, as reciprocal reopening is one of the criteria used to make the final selection for the safe list.
Britain, despite having left the E.U., is still being considered part of the bloc until year’s end, and so was not part of the discussion over outside visitors.
A detailed guide of criteria shared among diplomats and reviewed this week by The New York Times said that the list should include only countries with a “comparable or better epidemiological situation as the average in the E.U.+ area,” and that the data from those countries must be credible and demonstrate a robust system for containing the virus.
The term “E.U.+” refers to the European Union plus Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, which do not belong to the E.U. but are normally part of its open-borders zone.
Criteria for exceptions to the safe list were also detailed in the guide, adding flexibility. Those included health workers, diplomats, humanitarian workers, transit passengers, asylum seekers and students, as well as “passengers traveling for imperative family reasons” and foreign workers whose employment in Europe is deemed essential.