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As Delta COVID-19 variant takes strong bite, EU takes U.S., Israel, Lebanon off safe travel list; imposes travel restrictions

The European Union recommended Monday that its 27 nations reinstate restrictions on tourists from the U.S. because of rising coronavirus infections there

The European Union recommended Monday that its 27 nations reinstate restrictions on tourists from the U.S. because of rising coronavirus infections there, but member countries will keep the option of allowing fully vaccinated U.S. travelers in.

The decision by the European Council to remove the U.S. from a safe list of countries for nonessential travel reverses the advice that it gave in June, when the bloc recommended lifting restrictions on all U.S. travelers before the summer tourism season, reports The ASSOCIATED PRESS.

The EU’s decision reflects growing anxiety that the rampant spread of the virus in the U.S. could jump to Europe at a time when Americans are allowed to travel to the continent. Both the EU and the U.S. have faced rising infections this summer, driven by the more contagious delta variant.

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.

Possible restrictions on U.S. travelers could include quarantines, further testing requirements upon arrival or even a total ban on all nonessential travel from the U.S.

In Washington, White House press secretary Jen Psaki stressed Monday that the EU travel restrictions applied to the unvaccinated, adding that “the fastest path to reopening travel is for people to get vaccinated, to mask up and slow the spread of the deadly virus.”

Paski told reporters that the U.S. government is working across federal agencies to develop its own policy for international travel, with the possibility of strengthening testing protocols and potentially ensuring that foreign visitors are fully vaccinated.

The United States remains on Britain’s “amber” travel list, meaning that fully vaccinated adults arriving from the U.S. to the U.K. don’t have to self-isolate. A negative COVID-19 test within three days before arriving in the U.K. is required and another negative test is needed two days after arriving.

The EU also removed Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro and North Macedonia from the safe travel list on Monday.

The U.S., meanwhile, is averaging more than 155,000 new coronavirus cases and 1,200 deaths per day, and several U.S. states have more COVID-19 patients in the hospital now than at any other time during the pandemic.

Authorities in Oregon are seeking extra refrigerated trucks because morgues are at capacity and Florida is in a similar situation after a week in which more than 1,700 people died from the virus in the state. Hospitals are desperately running out of staff in several states, and the start of the school year has brought even more fears that the outlook will worsen as millions of unvaccinated students return to their classrooms.

Vaccine hesitancy also remains a problem in many locations in the U.S., where 61% of the eligible population is inoculated against the virus. In contrast, Britain has fully vaccinated over 78% of adults and EU countries have inoculated nearly 70% of those over 18.

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