EU recommends restrictions on US travelers amid COVID-19 spike

The European Union on Monday recommended halting nonessential travel from the United States amid a rise in COVID-19 infections, a move that could be a blow to the region's tourist industry.

The decision to reimpose restrictions comes amid a massive spike in infections in the U.S. due to the delta variant. Transmission is high nationwide, but the impacts are the worst in the largely unvaccinated regions of the country. 

The EU travel list is updated every two weeks, and the decision is merely a nonbinding recommendation, but it applies to all travelers regardless of vaccination status. 

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Member states are ultimately responsible for making their own decisions about travel, including whether to impose a quarantine on unvaccinated people or require a certificate of vaccination to enter.

According to EU criteria, countries need to have fewer than 75 cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks, plus a stable or decreasing trend of new cases, and a positivity rate of 4 percent or less. 

The U.S. does not meet that criteria, according to EU data, as it had about 588 cases per 100,000 people. According to the most recent numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the positivity rate is about 10 percent. 

The countries removed from the "safe" list also include Israel, Montenegro, Lebanon and North Macedonia.

The European Council, the EU's governing body, recommended in June that member states lift restrictions on nonessential travel from 14 countries, including the U.S. 

But international travel remains a point of contention, as the Biden administration has not lifted its own border restrictions despite pressure from the international community and tourism industry groups.