Passengers arrive on a flight from London amid new restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at JFK International Airport in New York City. Image Credit: Reuters

Brussels: European Union governments agreed on Monday to remove the United States from the EU's safe travel list, meaning US visitors and those from five other countries are likely to face tighter controls, such as COVID-19 tests and quarantines.

Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro, and North Macedonia have also been taken off. The list seeks to unify travel rules across the bloc, although it does not bind individual EU nations, which are free to determine their own border policies.

Different clearance levels

Already some EU countries - Germany and Belgium - categorise the US as 'red', requiring tests and quarantines, while for France and the Netherlands, the US is classified as safe. The list is largely compiled on the basis of the COVID-19 situation in each country, with reciprocity also a factor.

Average daily US COVID-19 cases have risen to more than 450 per million people in the week to August 28, compared with below 40 in mid-June when the EU added the US to its list, figures from Our World in Data show.

Safe to receive

The EU safe list now comprises 17 countries, including Canada, Japan and New Zealand. The bloc still lets in most non-EU visitors who are fully vaccinated, although tests and periods of quarantine can apply, depending on the EU country of arrival.

Despite EU appeals, Washington does not allow European citizens to visit freely. The bloc itself has been divided between those concerned about the lack of reciprocity and increased US cases and others more reliant on tourism and reluctant to restrict US travellers.