E.U. may block travelers from America as U.S. struggles to contain coronavirus

"The E.U. average new cases for 14 days per 100 000 people is 16. For the U.S., it is 107," one diplomat said.

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By Alexander Smith

The European Union could block incoming travelers from the United States even after it partially reopens its borders because the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. is still too high, two E.U. diplomats said Wednesday.

The E.U. has drawn up a draft list of countries whose citizens would be allowed to enter the bloc after June 30 as the continent attempts to reopen amid the pandemic.

But according to the most recent working document circulated at a meeting of E.U. ambassadors Wednesday, the U.S. is not among the countries from which travelers would be allowed in, the diplomats said.

"It's very fluid. There was a list last night. This morning, a new one was circulated," one diplomat said on the condition of anonymity, because they were not authorized to talk publicly about the deliberations.

Wednesday's meeting was briefed that the number of U.S. cases in the past 14 days was 107 per 100,000 people, compared with just 16 per 100,000 people across the E.U., the diplomat said.

Asked if the U.S. was included on the second draft list of countries, the diplomat added, "With 107 new cases per 100,000 people, what do you think?" Another also confirmed the U.S. was excluded in the most current version of the list.

The New York Times first reported Tuesday that a draft E.U. list would exclude U.S. travelers from being able to enter the continent.

The U.S. has the most reported coronavirus cases and deaths in the world, ahead of Brazil, Russia and India.

While much of the country is reopening, cases continue to rise. States such as Arizona and Texas have become the latest hot spots of what the nation's top infectious diseases official, Dr. Anthony Fauci, described as a "disturbing surge" before Congress on Tuesday.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was expected to address the issue during a press conference Wednesday morning.

A Department of State spokesperson said, "We are committed to coordinating with our European partners and allies as we look forward to reopening our economies and easing restrictions."

They urged U.S. citizens to check the websites of the relevant American embassy or consulate for travel information related to that country.

President Donald Trump's fractious relationship with Europe has deteriorated further during the crisis, with the president announcing sweeping travel restrictions in March without telling any of his E.U. counterparts first.

Most travelers around the world have been prevented from visiting the E.U. for months unless their trip is deemed essential.

The reason the U.S. was excluded from Wednesday's list had nothing to do with previous diplomatic relations, but was merely a dispassionate result of its infection rate being too high, the diplomats said.

They were also keen to stress that the negations were not final and the list of countries included could always change. A third E.U. diplomat said that "member states are still fine-tuning the criteria on which such a list of third countries would be based."

They added, "The idea is that the reopening of the external borders will be gradually and cautiously. So, it's too early to tell anything specific on a specific country."

Abigail Williams contributed.