Simon Calder says consumer confidence 'destroyed' by travel rules
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Much to the dismay of European governments, Washington has given little indication on when it might reverse rules banning travel from the European Union’s Schengen free-travel zone. Speaking at a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week, President Biden said work was ongoing on what travel restrictions for Europe could be lifted. He said that internal talks over the issue are “in process now” and expects a decision “within the next several days what is likely to happen”.
The US has largely lifted all of its internal restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus but has maintained draconian rules for international travel.
This has sparked fury in EU diplomatic circles, with many national ministers over the weekend boasting that the bloc’s vaccines rollout is now ahead of the US scheme.
Influential figures, including French Europe minister Clement Beaune, posted figures from Our World in Data that show the EU has surpassed the US for the share of population with at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
This will likely add fuel to the fire of EU insiders furious with the reluctance of Washington to reopen transatlantic travel to the bloc’s citizens.
Mrs Merkel last week used to a visit to Washington to plead with President Biden to lift the ban.
European visits to the US in May were still 95 percent below pre-pandemic levels in the same month in 2019, according to the US Travel Association.
One diplomat told the Bloomberg news agency that anger is rising with the US because EU nations have eased restrictions on American travellers.
One European official said the US travel ban was not supported by science.
They said the current vaccination rates and the continued health measures in place in Europe show that the transatlantic routes should be reopened.
The insider claimed the US travel ban had made it increasingly hard for European businesses to maintain and build on their investments in the country.
US airlines are also getting frustrated with the lack of movement, since transatlantic routes have the potential to be hugely profitable for them.
Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian last week said: “We’ve been lobbying for a number of months to open corridors between the US and UK and Europe and the US.
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“US travellers who have been vaccinated can go to Europe, and they are.
“It’s unfortunate we can’t bring Europeans back into our country.”
US politicians have said the decision will be left for the White House to make.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently said: “We’re following the science and following the recommendations of our health authorities.
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“I can’t put a date on it. I can tell you we’re working very, very actively on it, because we would like nothing better than to see travel pick up.”
The US ban on travellers from Europe, including the UK, entered into force some 16 months ago.
Former President Donald Trump on March 14, 2020, slapped an indefinite ban on travellers from the UK and Ireland that can only be lifted by the sitting incumbent in the White House.
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