European travelers frustrated with US COVID restrictions

The Henkel family’s plans to travel from Germany to Las Vegas include a two-week detour to Mexico due to COVID-19 travel restrictions the United States maintains for arrivals from Europe.

Oliver Henkel, a business executive who will be heading to a trade show next month, said he and his wife would make the most of their “waiting room” in the third country, rather than their preferred plan of Southern California tour. .

“We wanted to go to Venice Beach,” Henkel, 51, who is vaccinated, said in a recent phone interview. “But due to US travel restrictions, we’ll be spending two weeks at a Caribbean resort in Mexico drinking margaritas instead.”

Aunque la Unión Europea levantó a mediados de junio las restrictions de viaje impuestas por COVID-19 a los estadounidenses, Estados Unidos aún no ha hecho lo mismo, para disgusto de millions de turistas y hombres de negocios que figuran en la lista de viajeros con prohibición of entry.

The United States allows entry to its citizens, their dependents, people who have spent 14 days in a country that is not on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) entry ban list , for its acronym in English) and some with special status conditions. All air passengers arriving from a foreign country must present a negative COVID-19 test taken no later than three days before the flight.

The United States and the European Union of 27 countries have pushed for vaccination campaigns to combat COVID-19, which has caused more than 4.3 million deaths worldwide, according to the Resource Center on the coronavirus from Johns Hopkins University.

More than 70% of Europeans over the age of 18 have received a vaccine and more than 60% are fully vaccinated, according to data from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. This figure is very similar to statistics for the United States, according to recent data from the CDC.

During the early days of the pandemic, in March 2020, as infection rates rose in the United States and Europe, then-President Trump introduced travel restrictions, which the European Union initially condemned. before soon banning non-essential travel from the United States. . Trump ordered an end to the US ban during his final week as president in January, but President Biden quickly rescinded that order over security concerns.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last month that the Biden administration would not lift any existing travel restrictions amid concerns, including the highly transmissible Delta variant. According to reports, the administration could go so far as to require vaccinations for almost all foreign visitors if travel restrictions are lifted.

In 2019, there were 14.5 million visitors from the European Union to the United States; the largest block, of 2.2 million, came from Germany. Due to pandemic restrictions, the number of visitors from the EU fell to 2 million in 2020 and is likely to remain as low in 2021, according to the US National Travel and Tourism Board.

Although other countries in the European Union share the United States’ desire to lift travel restrictions, it seems particularly palpable in Germany, which has Europe’s largest economy. German company BioNTech worked with Pfizer to manufacture and distribute one of the COVID-19 vaccines.

“There is no reason why Europeans who are fully vaccinated and test negative for COVID-19 cannot enter the United States,” said Peter Beyer, German government’s transatlantic coordinator and member head of parliament, during a telephone interview. “It is feared that this could seriously damage the economic recovery on both sides of the Atlantic.”

After the EU lifted the ban on all Americans, including the unvaccinated, on June 18, given the improving epidemiological situation, Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Biden to review the imposed ban to virtually all citizens of the European Union. But it remains in place and reports indicate the EU could bar Americans from re-entering if COVID-19 conditions in the United States deteriorate further.

“The funny thing is that those of us who were so thrilled to see the German-American relationship embodied in a joint vaccine produced by German and American companies are perplexed that we cannot conceive of a system by which Germans can travel to the United States as long as they have enough evidence to control COVID,” said Jackson Janes, a fellow at the German Marshall Fund in Washington, referring to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Janes said he appreciates that some German journalists, researchers and exchange students have been able to benefit from exemptions from the travel ban to the United States.

“I don’t understand why they can’t open the taps a little more,” he said.

Sarah Stolz, an English and history teacher in Berlin who has been to the United States frequently, said she and her family had to cancel plans to travel to the United States this year. The family last traveled to the United States in 2019, visiting Seattle and elsewhere, he said.

“We love our road trips in America,” said Stolz, 41. “It’s always amazing to visit such a big country by car or motorhome, to visit national parks, to stay in motels and to feel the freedom and to feel the American way of life. We love the beaches of Florida and California, the energy of New York and American cuisine.

Instead, the family visited Greece for the past two summers, he said.

“We really miss America and we hope to be able to go there next year,” he said, “but I’m afraid the travel ban is still there, so it probably won’t be possible until 2023. “

For Olav Schrage, a 48-year-old German cardiologist who lives in Berlin, the desire to travel to the United States was born out of a desire to see the Milwaukee Bucks play in the NBA Finals last month; fans in stadiums were encouraged to wear masks unless eating or drinking. She tried to go to a game, she had a ticket and flights arranged, as well as safe conduct to travel with her American-born daughter, but she couldn’t miss work.

“I agree that, from a medical standpoint, it probably makes sense to restrict any unnecessary social interaction on trips like this,” Schrage said. “But on the other hand, a crowded sports arena with people not wearing masks is probably much worse than letting fully vaccinated people into the country.”

In practice, it can be difficult for EU citizens to enter the United States, but it is not impossible.

Andrew Adair, business consultant for North America of the Asociación de la Ingeniería Mecánica in Frankfurt, said that the experts that are necessary to install or carry out critical maintenance work on machines in Estados Unidos generally can obtain exemptions from the prohibition of To travel. But many business people want to travel for reasons that don’t fall under the State Department’s exemption criteria, including to meet clients and conduct business.

“It is against the interests of the United States to prevent German business travelers who are fully immunized and who bring jobs and prosperity to the United States,” said Adair, 48. “With major trade shows starting this fall, it’s a ticking time bomb. Quite simply, a successful show cannot be held without international guests. If the United States wants to continue to attract foreign investors and international business partners, the travel ban is a strange way to show it.

Kirschbaum is special envoy.

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