EU restricts non-essential travel from US due to Delta variant levels

The bloc removed America from its ‘safe list’ of countries, along with five others – meaning France is likely to take the country off its green travel list

31 August 2021
American Airlines Boeing 777 taking off from European airport

The EU regularly reviews its list of countries on which restrictions are imposed for non-essential travel Pic: Santi Rodriguez / Shutterstock

By Hannah Thompson

The EU has once again called for restrictions on non-essential travel from the US, as the Delta variant spreads in the country. Five other countries, including Israel, were also taken off its safe list.

The European Council regularly reviews its list of countries deemed to be safe for the removal of travel restrictions.

In its latest update (August 30), the EU removed the US from its safe list (meaning the list of countries for which it recommends restrictions can be lifted). 

So as to have a coordinated approach in the EU, individual member states are asked to restrict 'non-essential' travel for unvaccinated people from countries that are not on the list, but they are free to lift travel restrictions for fully-vaccinated travellers if they choose.

This means that in some EU countries, travellers from non 'safe list' countries who have received all their EU-approved jabs (such as Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson) are permitted entry for non-essential journeys. 

This is the case for France, which does not require essential reasons for any fully-vaccinated travellers, however the change means the US is likely to be removed from its green list, and probably placed on the amber one. This will reintroduce the 'essential reasons' requirement and a quarantine period for those who are not vacinated.

Israel, Lebanon, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo were also taken off the EU safe list.

It comes as the US has asked its citizens not to travel to Switzerland because of the health situation there. 

It said that if its citizens “must travel to Switzerland, ensure you are completely vaccinated before travelling”, and added that even fully vaccinated citizens were at risk of “contracting and spreading variants of Covid-19”.

Switzerland has seen a rise in Covid cases amid the emergence of the Delta variant, with 35,150 cases recorded since August 16, according to the country’s federal public health office. 

On August 10, the US issued a similar warning to its citizens about travel to France. It is still in place.

Travel from the EU to the US

For non-essential international travellers towards the US, borders are also still closed, even for those who have been tested and fully vaccinated.

The EU’s safe list currently includes 17 countries, plus China, if the latter reciprocates.

The bloc is set to reach its target of fully vaccinating 70% of its population in the next few days, although major disparities still exist between nations.

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