Should Americans Be Allowed To Travel Freely To Europe Now?

It’s clearly time that Europeans should be allowed to enter the U.S. There’s no good virus-related reason to keep them out. But what about letting American’s visit Europe? The European Commission is recommending new guidelines for save travel, and the U.S. is on its way towards meeting their criteria.

U.S. Travel Bans Haven’t Helped Stop Spread Of Covid-19

Back in the spring it was clear that the U.S. ban on travelers from Europe no longer made any sense. The China travel ban was poorly executed and the Europe ban came too late to matter. The virus spread within the U.S., there was no more ‘keeping it out.’

When cases receded in China and Europe, while spreading at a faster pace in the U.S., it arguably made sense for countries to keep out Americans – but made little sense for Americans to keep out non-residents who had been to China or Europe.

The U.S. never imposed travel restrictions on Qatar, Bahrain, Panama, Chila, Kuwait, and Peru – all countries with greater cases per capita than the U.S. and more than Europe and China as well. The U.S. policy just makes no sense.

Europe’s Policies Haven’t Been Helpful, Either

European policies make little sense, either. As coronavirus cases surge again in parts of Europe, especially Spain and France but also in Germany, some countries within Europe are closing their borders to other European nations. And the restrictions vary based on positive tests per capita, “from 25 cases per 100,000 in Latvia, to 16/100,000 in Lithuania and 40/100,000 in Slovenia.”

So the European Commission is recommending a common set of rules to be applied.

Countries or “given areas” with a weekly testing rate over 250/100,000 people should not be blocked: if new cases total less than 50/100,000 in 14 days; or if positive tests are less than 3% of the total.

The U.S. Is On Its Way To Meeting ‘Safe Entry’ Standards

Let’s apply the criteria that the European Commission is proposing to the United States to see if U.S. citizens should be permitted to enter Europe.

  • There are 331 million people in the United States.

  • The U.S. would be required to test a minimum of 827,500 people per week. In the past week the U.S. has tested 5.2 million.

  • The U.S. positivity rate has hovered between 5% and 6%, so the 3% threshold doesn’t qualify us. However that’s not the only way to qualify for entry.

  • They recommend 50 cases per 100,000 people within the previous 14 days. That would be 166,500 cases in the U.S. or an average of 23,643 per day.

The U.S. does not meet this criteria today. It did, however, meet the case number criteria in early June. Under standards being proposed now, if applied to countries beyond Europe, Americans would have been allowed in for tourism.

Taking the criteria that the European Commission is deeming ‘safe’ then the U.S. could either get its daily positivity rate down to where it was in early June – and it’s been on a downward trend – or it could further ramp up testing, doubling the number of tests conducted to about 1.6 million per week. New technology is about to scale testing in ways that makes that possible.

We Should Have Objective Criteria, Not Individual Country Bans

While it’s likely that European nations impose stricter conditions on entry of non-Europeans than they do citizens of Europe, that shouldn’t be the case. Unfortunately I’m not predicting that this intra-Europe rule will be applied to the U.S.

The U.S. has applied a non-sensical rule to Europe. And it’s been odd to ban travel from Europe while not banning regions and countries with more Covid-19 than Europe. However both (and all) sides should apply an objective criteria for opening up travel and apply it consistently.

Bans of specific countries, that have to be lifted based on bureaucratic discretion – rather than objective critiera – are a blunt tool that hasn’t helped limit spread of Covid-19.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @Gene, sad but true. Increasing testing was great for scientific purposes and terrible for PR purposes.

  2. “They recommend 50 cases per 100,000 people within the previous 14 days. That would be 166,500 cases in the U.S. or an average of 23,643 per day.”

    That’s if it was within the past 7 days; at 165,500/14 days it is 11,821/day, which is about 40% below our lowest numbers ever.

    I don’t believe we ever would have come close to qualifying against these criteria.

    *331m/500 is 165,500, not 166,500

  3. As rapid testing becomes more readily available, I’m hoping it’ll just shift to a requirement for a recent, negative test.

  4. When the US joins the rest of the world and makes decisions on science and not politics, maybe you’ll be invited back. Simple: dumpTrump!

  5. The only reason they are looking at bending the rules is because the UK which is so dependent on American tourists has an economy that is in worse shape than ours. The EU does not need our plagued tourists and are doing ok or even better without us. They might re-invite us when our country is under adult management.

  6. Objective criteria? have you seen anything our government did in the last 3.5 years that is based on “objective criteria”?

    Can’t blame EU for not trusting us, even if our number meets the criteria in a month, what kind of credibility do we have that will make others believe our numbers?

  7. If Trump opened the US for more access and there was even one confirmed case that a European caused the infection, Biden would make news of it that Trump was disregarding science etc. etc. and killing us all. I don’t see any action on this until after the election.

    I’ve been working in England (two passports) for the past month and the government here has no more grasp of what’s going on than in the States.

  8. American, traveling in Europe for the last month.

    I don’t think I’ve been asked a single time, at any air border, to provide any documentation.
    I usually get a test before flying into the next country – but, I think in Montenegro they asked.
    Not in Ukraine, not in Netherlands, not in the Balkans, not in Turkey (arrived today).

    So, yeah, I’m traveling freely in Europe, now.

    US cases appear to be down 40% from summer peak.
    Deaths down 30%+, dropping each week.

    Seems like we’ve got our selves a ‘casedemic’ here.
    Where anyone who tests positive – magically becomes a case… even if they aren’t sick.

    It’s the most insane definition of a pandemic ever.
    People who aren’t sick are cases, and when everyone stops dying (look at Europe data), people don’t celebrate, they get scared.

    it’s the strangest thing I’ve seen in my life.

    I’ve chosen to ignore the hysteria, and traveling freely this year.
    107,000 miles, 20+ countries. Zero drama.

  9. Can’t seem to get an answer. Can’t find much business award travel from south Europe to Ord around 7-8-21.
    Seems like they must be busy.

  10. I just traveled 17 days. Boston to Paris… Paris to Sicily and back again. There is no reason why the world should start re-opening itself back u again. I had three covid tests (before, after, and in between Fr/It). I was asked to fill out a form on every plane I was on… a total of 4 forms. Never collected at any airport.

  11. Sorry for the typos in my last post… meant to say that there is no reason why the world should not start re-opening again.

  12. The EU isn’t a country. If you want to compare the US to something similar, then look at western Europe. It’s also not a “country” but it’s almost the same population size, same culture, and coincidentally similar covid death rate.

    Population 330m versus 398m. Death rate (as of 2 weeks ago) 503.61 per million versus 438.98 per million.

  13. Time to real about the virus.

    From The New York Times:
    President Trump acknowledged to the journalist Bob Woodward that he had knowingly played down the coronavirus earlier this year even though he was aware it was “deadly” and vastly more serious than the seasonal flu.

    “This is deadly stuff,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Woodward on Feb. 7 in one of a series of interviews he conducted with the president for his upcoming book, “Rage.” The Washington Post and CNN were given advance copies of the book and published details on Wednesday.

    “You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump said. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu.”

    That was a vastly different story than Mr. Trump was telling the public.

  14. Why would European tourists come here and put their lives in danger? Most of the tourist sites are closed or with reduced hours. Some European countries tourist sites are not open either. I don’t want to spend 14 days cooped up in a room in some European city and then have to go get tested again to proove I’m worthy of walking around to places that are closed. Hogwash! I’ll stay home till every European country opens up.

  15. 100% politics – I normally travel monthly to Germany, France, Neth for business…
    100% ok with ban on Europeans until they accept US passports. Europe starting to cave/ their national airlines bleeding cash without profitable J/F transatlantic routes.
    Merkel & Macron run Europe 100%…the rest of the EU members compliant window dressing. Merkel/Macron hatred for Trump has crushed their economy & airline industry…laughable.

    PS – I’m 45, got C19 in Germany in Februrary. Mild dry cough for 3 weeks, no fatigue, no fever, nothing, felt fine.

  16. There’s no reason you can’t travel to the US. Other than people wearing masks everywhere and pretending to be virus experts, everything is more or less the same.

  17. @dot – I know you aren’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but how do you feel about Trump openly lying to you about Covid all these months? In private he was talking about how deadly it was, how it “might kill 30,000 people” (oh so long ago), while publicly saying no big deal, gonna disappear in a week, it’s a hoax, etc.

    You MAGA types truly have been suckered…and yet you blindly follow him off the cliff. Amazing.

  18. @Howard that is how it works, a positive case is a case. That is science! If you had it but didn’t test, doesn’t mean you didn’t have it. Flawed logic, there. People without symptoms still spread the virus.

  19. @Chris has the key point. The issue that should matter is whether the individual is a danger, not whether a particular country has relatively more or less people – most of whom are not traveling anyway – who might be a danger. Rapid testing, rapid results, and these blanket bans are not needed.

  20. USA NUMBER 1 USA NUMBER 1 as they chant….but, only in covid cases, though. to allow americans into other countries? would you invite a thief into your home? throw oil onto fire? sure, why not?

  21. The author of the articles grossly misunderstood the proposal. You wrote “The U.S. positivity rate has hovered between 5% and 6%, so the 3% threshold doesn’t qualify us. However that’s not the only way to qualify for entry. They recommend 50 cases per 100,000 people within the previous 14 days. That would be 166,500 cases in the U.S. or an average of 23,643 per day.”

    That’s not even close to truth. Having under 50 cases per 100k people is not sufficient, you must also fulfil the positive tests rate to become even orange-listed.

    To become green-listed according to the EC’s proposal, member state needs to have less than 3% positivity rate AND less than 25 new cases per 100k in last 14 weeks. US is over 5% and has over 100 new cases per 100k. Not even close.

    To become orange-listed, you can have up to 150 new cases per 100k but you must still have less than 3% positivity rate.

    Even if the same rules applied to third countries, US would still be red and nowhere near becoming at least orange-listed. And that’s a huge “if”, because while intra-EU travel is a legal right that can only be restricted in certain circumstances, entry by third country nationals is a privellege that can be restricted whenever countries decide to do so.

  22. I guess I really don’t appreciate that this site has become political. Can we please just report the facts about travel and Covid and leave the political rhetoric out of it. I would like to just read information about travel, covid stats and updates about travel. Leave your politics at home. I have plenty of other sites to read all of that. So please have some restraint about making everything political. . Not interested in any of your opinions other than travel related. If you need to vent find another avenue.

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