When Will Americans Be Allowed to Travel to Europe Again?
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When Will Americans Be Allowed to Travel to Europe Again?

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Nearly all travel between the U.S. and the European Union (EU) has been shut down since mid-March, as countries around the world closed their borders to non-essential travel to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Fast forward to May and June, and there was hope that Americans would be allowed to return. Iceland, Greece, Portugal, and others talked of welcoming tourists from around the globe as summer arrived.

But those hopes were dashed as the European Union Commission spelled out strict requirements for resuming international travel. Residents from just 10 countries outside of Europe are currently allowed in – and the United States isn’t one of them, due to the ongoing pandemic.

So what will it take for Americans to be allowed to return to Europe? When might that happen? And is there anywhere within Europe where Americans can currently travel in the meantime?

Americans travel to europe

Behind Europe’s Decisionmaking

The current ban on Americans (and travelers from many other countries) entering much of Europe comes from the European Union Commission, which sets criteria based on guidance from the World Health Organization and International Heath Regulations.

Still, it’s up to the individual countries throughout the EU to enforce these travel recommendations – and most are. Twenty-four out of 27 countries in the EU and in Europe’s Schengen Zone are following through, including: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Croatia are not following that guidance. They’ve got their own travel restrictions in place.

But how is Europe deciding which country’s tourists are OK to enter Europe, and which are not? It comes down to three criteria surrounding the status of and response to the coronavirus pandemic: 

  1. The number of new COVID-19 cases over the last 14 days per 100,000 inhabitants should be close to or below the EU average (as of June 15)
  2. A stable or decreasing trend of new cases over that period in comparison to the previous 14 days
  3. Overall response to COVID-19, including looking at testing, contact tracing, containment, treatment, reporting, and other factors

Reciprocity is another factor. So if China decides to allow EU residents to enter the country again, the EU is more likely to allow Chinese residents to enter Europe.

The Commission constantly reviews these data points, adding and subtracting countries from the approved list every two weeks. And so far, it’s not looking good for the U.S…

How Does The United States Stack Up?

By nearly every measure, the U.S. is falling far short of what it would take for travel to resume.

That’s most obvious when it comes to how many new daily cases are being reported in the U.S. According to the New York Times, the U.S. is averaging about 46,025 new cases per day – or just under 200 new cases per 100,000 residents over a 14-day period – the metric the EU looks at.

Criteria #1: No.

While the EU doesn’t publish a firm requirement for an acceptable number, comparing that figure to some of the countries that have already been allowed to resume travel to Europe shows how far the U.S. has to go:

  • Australia has reported a recent average of 500 new cases per day – 28 new cases per 100,000 people spanning 14 days.
  • Canada is averaging 391 new daily cases, or just over 14 new cases per 100,000 residents spanning 14 days. 

Just look at the graph from Our World in Data, and you’ll see just how far off the U.S. is from countries that the EU has deemed acceptable.

new covid cases per million 

Criteria #2: No.

That same graph also shows that case counts are not stable or decreasing over the last two weeks. That’s another metric the U.S. is currently missing for travel to Europe to resume.

Criteria #3: No.

And by almost every measure that the EU cares about, the U.S. has not done a good job responding to COVID-19 overall. Testing is not widely available, and results often take days to a week or more. The number of tests we’re performing has dropped in recent weeks. Contact tracing has been popular and wildly successful in other countries to limit the spread of COVID-19, but it’s little used in the U.S., according to the Scientific American.

The U.S. has the highest per capita infection rates in the world, followed closely by Brazil.
Americans travel to europe

What Does This Mean For Americans?

As you can see the United States has a long way to go to meet the standards set for entry back into Europe.

Compared to the countries that are already allowed to travel to Europe, coronavirus case counts in the U.S. are nearly off the charts. Testing needs to become more widely available with much quicker results. Contact tracing needs to be utilized.

Unfortunately, this all means that it could be quite some time before Americans are allowed back into Europe. Just how long that it may take is in the government’s hands.


 A Glimmer of Hope

The longer borders remain closed, the tougher it will be for economies to rebound. Most European countries rely on tourism – and American tourism, in particular.

Tourism makes up 25% of Greece’s GDP. In France, it makes up 9.7% of its GDP, accounting for 2.9 million jobs. And in Spain, the tourism sector is the third-largest contributor to the economy. Put simply, Europe needs tourism to come back.

Some countries have already decided they can’t go without tourism.

Croatia is the only member of the EU to which Americans can realistically travel right now. But the country requires a negative COVID-19 test taken within 48 hours – nearly impossible for many Americans right now.

Dubrovnik, Croatia 

Meanwhile, the U.K. and Ireland both require travelers from the U.S. to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, effectively making those countries closed for U.S. tourism.

Other countries like Iceland, Portugal, and Greece have shown they are eager to find a way to bring American travelers back. As testing becomes more widely available (and it will have to in order for the world to recover), testing requirements like Croatia’s may become the path for more countries to restart tourism worldwide.


Bottom Line

It’s safe to say that it will be a while before Americans can return to Europe. Just how long that takes is up in the air.

But don’t give up hope. Europe (and the rest of the world) will need tourism. Let’s hope our world’s leaders can get us on the right track, and figure out a way for us to safely open up soon.

This story has been updated to show that U.S. coronavirus cases are averaging roughly 200 cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period – not daily.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

11 Responses

  • I know it’s useless to ask you questions, since you don’t answer them…However, just in case you read comments and decide to explain your math in this statement: “the U.S. is averaging about 46,025 new cases per day – or just over 200 new cases per 100,000 residents ”
    Because 46,025 cases for 330 millions (that’s how many Americans there are) translates into about 14 cases per 100,000 residents.

    • We almost always answer questions – and correct stories when we are wrong. And you are correct, we flubbed the math there: We were looking at case counts per 100,000 residents over 14-day periods (because that’s what the EU looks at) but did not spell that out for the U.S. case counts.

      Thanks, we’ve updated the story!

  • European travel ??? What’s wrong with us?? 200,000 people dead and we are worried about tourism to Europe. This is what’s wrong with the country. Let’s stop the virus first and then worry about vacations and traveling. We are so spoiled !!!

  • You would think two super powers ( EU and USA) in the world could figure out a way to allow tourism to once again to begin in the EU and the United States of America. Cornea virus tests and temperature checks at airports would stop people with the Virus from entering each country. There is a safe way for everyone to travel again. I believe this is more of a political matter and not so much a virus matter. The EU has done more harm to their economy by not permitting Americans into Europe which actually helped the USA economy. Most Americans traveled throughout the in USA sense they couldn’t travel abroad. That’s is actually what President Trump wanted Americans to do.

  • I’m inclined to agree with Kenneth. There are relatively safe ways to resume travel. It gets complex and there are a number of possibilities, but one bad prospect is different stains arising in different regions & due to isolation creating even greater risk. When a country, such as the US, achieves herd immunity from one strain it then becomes at risk for a 2nd wave from a different strain – and that 2nd strain WILL eventually hit us.
    That said, I really appreciate the article & travel insights, but I agree the math is wrong. We’ve been running closer to 12/100k lately. Also new cases/day isn’t the critical number. This can be due to testing numbers. We have done 77 million tests to date – approaching 25% of our population & a greater % than any European country. New cases per 100k is not an unreasonable metric for travel, but percent tested should also be factored in. France, for ex., has only tested 1 in 10 of it’s population, so it will miss many asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic people.
    It’s a shame politics gets injected into this, but I guess that’s reality. The metric here is deaths/million & we are in line with most countries & certainly better off than some European countries. I’ll just say that I didn’t vote for Trump but have followed closely day-by-day (it’s my job to know), and I fail to see how anyone could have done better under identical circumstances, given what we knew at the time. Even Dr. Fauci said in Feb. that Americans need not be concerned. The CDC messed up with their testing criteria & we soon knew this wasn’t going to be contained. Hindsight is always 20/20 but I think our country has done about as good a job as can be expected.
    PS: Contact tracing in a nation so spread out is possible only on a local level. You cannot contact trace someone on a NY subway with thousands of people getting on & off and going in a thousand directions.

    • The numbers cited are in relation to the criteria set by the EU. They are looking at the # of cases per 100,000 for 14 days. At the time of publishing the average per 100,000 was 14 which is just under 200 cases for 14 days.

      • Yes, I understand that, and as mentioned it’s not an entirely unreasonable metric. However, beyond that, apples-to-apples should be the comparison. If one country does 1/10th the testing we don’t know the true number of new cases. It gets a bit complex. We use a variety of different tests in the US in order to meet demand & some have notoriously high numbers of false positives. Beyond that, even deaths are calculated differently. In the US we count every death of a patient with covid as a covid death, even if the cause of death is unrelated. Why? Because it pays. Code a record for covid & the govt pays big time. Code for ventilator use & get an extra $40,000. Yep, $40k.

  • It seems to me that we need an ad hoc committee composed of a virologist, a representative of the travel industry and a representative of the airline industry to develop a protocol that would reduce the danger of flying to Europe to that of not flying to Europe. For example, one could be tested at 10 days and 3 days before flying. One needs a test with few false positives and a rapid readoutl

  • Why don’t these countries do testing as you enter each country, thereby allowing tourists to go the way they want to go after a day or so of quarantining. I would be more then happy to have a test before I head out of Boston for the UK and then have one when I get there, and anything else I would need. I live in a state where we obey the social distancing and mask rules and our covid level is about 1%. I don’t think those of us doing our share should be punished because of the idiots who refuse to social distance or wear masks. I’ve had 2 Covid tests for medical purposes, negative both times. We need a covid test for every procedure here in CT. I need my annual mental health vacation to England badly. There has got to be a way these governments could come through. I am more then happy to help out their economy by spending money there.

  • Not everyone who wants to go from the US to Europe fits the profile of “tourist.” Some of us have homes there and want to go for more than a two week stay in a hotel. It would be great if they could open up for different types of entry, though I admit this would be hard to manage.

    • Agree with Lisa 100%. I’m a post-grad and I was supposed to move to Paris in June on a permanent job contract. The visa centers have told me that I have to wait for the borders to open like everyone else. This makes no sense to me.

      If I was going for pleasure, I’d get it, but I’m not – so I don’t… as long as I follow all the precautions, take the test 72 hours before departure, wear the mask till I get to my apartment…?

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