PARIS—European Union member states have set out a list of countries from which they will gradually lift COVID-19 restrictions on non-essential travel, including Australia, Canada, South Korea and China—as long as it reciprocates—but excluding the U.S.

The Council of the EU said June 30 that it had adopted a recommendation on the gradual lifting of temporary restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU, which had been in place since March 17 in a bid to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Schengen associated countries Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are also applicable to the recommendation.

The list will be updated every two weeks. A listed country may have restrictions re-imposed if its health situation worsens.

While the exclusion of the U.S. from the list is not a surprise—given the country is so far the worst affected by the coronavirus—it nonetheless deals a blow to the recovery hopes of major airlines on both sides of the Atlantic operating on the important transatlantic market.

From July 1, the Council said EU member states should start lifting restrictions for residents of Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay. The EU ban on China should also be lifted but is subject to confirmation that China will do the same for EU member states, the Council added.

The European Commission (EC) had previously made recommendations on how to proceed with the reopening of borders—an important step for Europe’s tourism industry, which has been devastated by the pandemic—taking into account the countries’ health situation, ability to apply containment measures during travel, and reciprocity considerations.

The Council also said countries whose restrictions were being lifted should,  among other criteria, have a number of new COVID-19 cases over the last 14 days per 100,000 inhabitants close to or below the EU average as of June 15; as well as a stable or decreasing trend of new cases over the last 14 days in comparison to the previous 14 days.

In the case of countries whose bans remain in place, EU citizens or long-term EU residents and their family members and those traveling for an essential function or need should be exempted, the Council said.

Although member states do not have to follow the recommendation, the EC has previously urged them to adopt a coordinated approach. In its June 30 recommendation, the Council said individual member states should not lift travel restrictions for non-listed countries without prior coordination.

Source: AviationWeek