European Union mulls recommendation to block travelers, including Americans, due to coronavirus

(CNN) -- As European Union nations continue to ease coronavirus restrictions, EU member states are discussing barring visitors from several countries, including the US, according to EU officials speaking to CNN. These sources, who are involved in the talks, say they have not seen any lists mentioning specific countries.

Amid a surge of coronavirus infections in some parts of the world, the EU has been working with member nations to agree on which travelers might be considered safe to visit the bloc starting July 1. The guidance will be based on how countries of origin are faring with the coronavirus pandemic.

"The criteria will be focused on circulation of the virus," said one EU diplomat, adding that Brussels is looking to keep out travelers from countries "where the virus is circulating most actively."

However, recommendations made by the Commission are not mandatory. Only an individual country can make the decision to open and close a border.

When asked if the US was on a list of origin countries that might be barred from travel to Europe, a EU diplomat directed CNN to the first point of a June 11 checklist published by the European Commission on what to consider when allowing travelers into the EU.

The first point on the checklist asks whether the country can "be considered as being in a comparable or better epidemiological situation as the average in the EU+ area" with regard to number of new infections, trend of new infections and response in areas such as testing, surveillance, contact tracing, containment, treatment and reporting.

The US has the highest number of coronavirus deaths and infections in the world. On Tuesday afternoon in the US, at least 2,329,637 have been infected in the country and 121,029 have died, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

The diplomat added that some European countries were "reticent about reopening at all," for fear of second waves of the coronavirus.

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Americans may not be able to travel to the European bloc when it reopens its borders.

A State Department spokesperson told CNN, "We are committed to coordinating with our European partners and Allies as we look forward to reopening our economies and easing restrictions. We continue to urge US citizens to check the websites of the relevant U.S. embassy or consulate websites for information on entry restrictions, foreign quarantine policies, and urgent health information provided by local governments."

Among the options being discussed are travel restrictions based on US geographic regions, rather than a sweeping ban on the entire country, since some regions have higher infection rates than others, two EU officials told CNN.

Another EU diplomat told CNN that the permanent representatives of the EU member states to the European Union discussed this issue Monday and will be discussing it again tomorrow. The diplomat said they had not seen a list of countries, only of criteria. Included in that criteria is the incidence of coronavirus per 100,000 people over the last 14 days.

Reciprocity is also a consideration, the EU diplomat added. Earlier this year, the US severely restricted travel from large parts of Europe due to coronavirus concerns.

The White House has thus far shown very little interest in engaging on the issue, according to two European officials. "The US travel ban is far more strict, so it's hard to imagine them putting up a fuss for this, and they haven't," a senior European official said.

A second European diplomat said that the travel ban considering has nothing to do with the EO signed by US President Donald Trump this week that freezes visas for foreign workers. "It's purely based on health considerations," this person said.

The European Commission tasked with revising the checklist criteria is currently "working around the clock" according an official at the Commission, to get the guidelines back to member states as quickly as possible ahead of the scheduled July 1 reopening.

Ambassadors are set to meet again on Wednesday and Friday of this week to discuss the next steps in the process.

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that the US has the highest number of coronavirus deaths and infections globally, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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