The E.U. on Tuesday recommended that its member states resume admittance for people traveling from at least 14 countries outside the bloc. Canada and Thailand were among the nations included, but not the United States, Russia and Brazil, where infection levels are spiking or remain high.
In practice, this means a tourist from Canada could head to Berlin starting Thursday, but one from the United States could not. (Upon return, Canadians would still need to quarantine for 14 days). Restrictions may also snap back in some E.U. countries, depending on infection numbers. Italy said Tuesday that it would continue to require travelers arriving from outside Europe’s Schengen area to quarantine for two weeks. Some E.U. countries do not intend to follow the E.U. recommendations.
In the United States, a State Department “Do Not Travel” advisory remains in place, advising “U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters last week that the United States is considering a return to U.S.-E.U. travel. “We’re working on finding the right way to do that, the right timing to do it, the right tactics to have in place,” he said. “We certainly don’t want to reopen a plan that jeopardizes the United States from people traveling here, and we certainly don’t want to cause problems anyplace else."
Travel during a pandemic presents health and ethics concerns, alongside logistical challenges — a reality his remarks appear to reflect.
Who can go where under what conditions during the pandemic can be difficult to ascertain. Egypt, for instance, scheduled the resumption of international arrivals for July 1 and was set to require coronavirus testing for travelers from high-risk countries, but the National, a newspaper in Abu Dhabi, reported Wednesday that those plans had been abandoned.
The website of Cairo Airport showed arrivals from cities including Paris, Milan and London on Wednesday, and several Egyptian resorts said they had reopened. Flight connections to cities including New York and Washington were set to resume Wednesday as well, EgyptAir, the state-owned flag carrier, said on its website. The first flight from New York is slated to arrive in Cairo on Thursday, according to the airport’s online schedule.
Holiday resorts in Egypt say they have taken all necessary precautions to keep tourists safe. But the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country has remained at a relatively high level, with more than 1,500 new confirmed infections reported Tuesday.
Whistleblower doctors have been arrested and silenced in Egypt, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, raising concerns over the country’s level of transparency as travel resumes.
Some tourism has also begun to return in Mexico, where new cases are on the rise and testing continues to lag. Even though land border crossings remain restricted, U.S. travelers can still make their way to Cancún or other tourism hotspots by plane. Hotels in Cancún are gradually reopening.
For some tourism-reliant destinations, keeping the door closed to Americans, however severe the U.S. outbreak, would pose steep economic challenges. Poor countries, however, are in many cases ill-prepared to handle an influx of infections, which travel from the United States could bring.
The Maldives, for instance, has for the most part been able to contain the coronavirus so far, with eight confirmed deaths, and is set to move ahead with reopening plans by July 15. The government will not require travelers to quarantine themselves or provide a coronavirus test results, unless they show symptoms. Tourism fuels the island country’s economy, and the “COVID-19 outbreak has had a debilitated effect,” according to the World Bank.
Tourism is also the main revenue source for the financially embattled Caribbean island of Aruba, where Americans make up around 4 in 5 tourists. Tourism has reopened there, but visitors are required to undergo tests.
Other countries with high rates of tourism have begun to reopen. Turkey is allowing in visitors from many countries. Before the pandemic, it had begun an ambitious plan to expand its tourism industry.
As a travel hub in the Middle East, Dubai is planning to reopen to international travelers on July 7 but has taken more extensive precautions, including a mandatory coronavirus test either before departure or upon arrival.
For the time being, Americans planning to travel abroad will face two determining questions: whether they can, given the high number of restrictions, and whether they should, given the risk of contracting or spreading the virus.