Americans Welcomed Back to Europe as Covid-19 Restrictions Ease

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

The EU Wednesday added the U.S. to the bloc’s “white list” of countries from where tourists can enter, according to diplomats. After the measure is rubber stamped at an EU meeting in Brussels on Friday, Americans will be free to visit the 27-nation bloc for the first time since March of last year. The EU last month said it intended to open up to Americans, but hadn’t set a date for when it would become official.

Some EU countries heavily dependent on tourism, including Italy and Greece, have already opened to Americans. Mediterranean countries would struggle to absorb another summer with few foreign tourists after last year’s costly lockdowns. Italy, Greece and France all suffered gross domestic product declines of more than 8% in 2020. Spain’s economy shrank by 11%.

With the U.S. now on the white list, most restrictions will be removed across the region, though countries can add their own requirements for entry. Most countries are expected to require tourists show either proof of vaccination, a negative Covid-19 test or a document attesting they have recovered from the disease.

Japan, Australia, Israel and several other countries are already on the EU white list. Countries added this week with the U.S. include Serbia and Lebanon.

In deciding which countries to add to the list, which is normally revisited every two weeks, the EU considers the infection rate and whether a country has opened to European tourists. The U.S. still hasn’t opened to tourists from the EU, though there have been meetings between the two sides to discuss the issue.

The bridge of Nesso on Lake Como. Italy has ditched its curfew in most of the northern part of the country.


Photo:

Francesco Molteni / Zuma Press

The official opening to U.S. tourists comes in the wake of President Biden’s visit to Brussels to meet with EU officials, where both sides agreed to cooperate on various issues.

Americans can also visit the U.K., which is no longer in the EU, though the process is laborious: Americans must get a Covid test before flying and then are subject to multiple tests and a 10-day quarantine period upon arrival, even if they have been vaccinated. (These rules are for England; they might vary slightly for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).

The opening comes as the EU is facing a rising number of cases of the Delta variant first identified in India. The variant has led to a recent rise in cases in the U.K., which is ahead of most of continental Europe in administering at least one vaccine dose to its citizens.

In the past few months, life in the EU has been inching toward normalcy. France said Wednesday it would end its nightly curfew on Sunday, 10 days earlier than planned, and said masks will no longer be mandatory outside beginning Thursday. Italy has also ditched its curfew in most of the northern part of the country and Rome, though the outdoor mask mandate remains in place.

While Europe opens up, tourists will still face some restrictions beyond local rules regarding mask requirements. Many attractions, including museums, are requiring reservations this year to head off big gatherings of people. While many outdoor concerts and festivals are being held, some, including the U.K.’s Glastonbury Festival, have been canceled. The Eiffel Tower won’t reopen until July 16.

The opening to American tourists comes just ahead of the introduction across of the EU on July 1 of the “digital green certificate” that certifies 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 still add other restrictions, including a quarantine requirement. Countries can also decide to honor a certificate attesting a person has had only one shot of a two-shot vaccine regime. The certificate can be displayed by travelers either on a smartphone app or as a printed document.

Startups, governments and nonprofits are racing to create so-called “vaccine passports,” or digital health passes aimed at helping people travel and safely move around in public. WSJ explains what it would take to get a global digital health pass system off the ground. Illustration: Zoë Soriano

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

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Appeared in the June 17, 2021, print edition as ‘EU Eases Covid Rules, Opens to U.S. Tourists.’

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