Americans are back in Europe as Covid-19 restrictions ease – –

Americans are back in Europe as Covid-19 restrictions ease – –

The European Union has agreed to open the door to American tourists for the first time since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, giving a boost to the continent’s crucial tourism industry and Americans’ summer travel options.

The EU on Wednesday added the United States to the bloc’s “white list” of countries from which tourists can enter, diplomats said. Once the measure is approved at an EU meeting in Brussels on Friday, Americans will be free to visit the 27-nation bloc for the first time since March last year. Last month, the EU said it intended to open up to Americans, but had not set a date when it would become official.

Some EU countries heavily dependent on tourism, including Italy and Greece, have already opened up to Americans. Mediterranean countries would struggle to absorb another summer with few foreign tourists after costly closures last year. Italy, Greece and France all suffered a drop in gross domestic product of more than 8% in 2020. The Spanish economy shrank by 11%.
With the United States now on the whitelist, most restrictions will be removed region-wide, although countries may add their own entry requirements. Most countries should require tourists to present either proof of vaccination, a negative Covid-19 test, or a document showing that they have recovered from the disease.

Japan, Australia, Israel and several other countries are already on the EU’s white list. Countries added this week along with the United States include Serbia and Lebanon.

When deciding which countries to add to the list, which is normally reviewed every two weeks, the EU takes into account the infection rate and whether a country has opened up to European tourists. The United States has still not opened up to tourists from the EU, although there have been meetings between the two sides to discuss the matter.

The Nesso Bridge over Lake Como. Italy has abandoned its curfew in much of the north of the country.

Francesco Molteni / Zuma Press

The official opening to American tourists comes following President Biden’s visit to Brussels to meet with EU officials, where the two sides have agreed to cooperate on various issues.

Americans can also visit the UK, which is no longer in the EU, although the process is laborious: Americans must pass a Covid test before flying, then go through multiple tests and a period of quarantine of 10 days on arrival, even if they have been vaccinated. (These rules apply to England; they may vary slightly for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).

The opening comes as the EU faces a growing number of cases of the Delta variant identified for the first time in India. The variant has led to a recent increase in cases in the UK, which is ahead of most countries in mainland Europe in giving at least one dose of the vaccine to its citizens.

Over the past few months, life in the EU has gradually returned to normal. France announced on Wednesday that it would end its nighttime curfew on Sunday, 10 days earlier than expected, and that masks will no longer be mandatory outside from Thursday. Italy has also dropped its curfew in much of the north of the country and in Rome, although the mandate for outdoor masks remains in place.

As Europe opens up, tourists will still face certain restrictions beyond local rules regarding mask requirements. Many attractions, including museums, require reservations this year to avoid large gatherings of people. While many outdoor concerts and festivals are held, some, including the UK Glastonbury Festival, have been canceled. The Eiffel Tower will not reopen until July 16.

The opening to American tourists comes just before the introduction across the EU on July 1 of the “digital green certificate” which certifies that a person has been vaccinated or has recovered from Covid. The certificates, which are already in use in some countries, aim to facilitate travel within the EU, but member countries can always add other restrictions, including a quarantine requirement. Countries may also choose to honor a certificate that a person has received only one injection of a two-shot vaccine. The certificate can be displayed by travelers on a smartphone app or as a printed document.

Startups, governments and nonprofits are rushing to create “vaccine passports” or digital health passes aimed at helping people travel and move safely in public. The WSJ explains what it would take to launch a global digital health card system. Illustration: Zoé Soriano

Write to Eric Sylvers at [email protected] and Laurence Norman at [email protected]

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