EU opens door to return of American tourists after adding US to safe list

EU member states paved the way for the return of American tourists on Wednesday when they agreed to add the US to its "white list" of countries with low Covid-19 rates, according to AFP.

EU opens door to return of American tourists after adding US to safe list
EU opens door to return of American tourists 'after adding US to safe list'. Photo: Jason Redmond / AFP

Ambassadors for the 27 member states gave the green light to the return of tourists from the US – including those who have not been vaccinated, AFP claimed, citing officials and diplomats.

A source at the European Council would not confirm that the US will be added to the white list but said we can expect an announcement on Friday.

“The review of the list of third countries for which travel restrictions should be gradually lifted is taking place this week, with an updated list expected to be presented for formal adoption on Friday,” the source said.

But the list is only a recommendation with countries deciding at a national level what their entry policy is when it comes to borders.

EU member states can still choose to require travellers from these areas to undergo Covid-19 testing or to observe periods in quarantine, but once the new list is approved the recommendation is that they should be exempted from a blanket travel ban.

It was not immediately clear whether individual countries would follow the lead of the EU, with many already having imposed their own rules on travellers from the US.

France, for example, recently opened travel from the US to those arrivals who had been fully vaccinated.

Switzerland, while not a member of the EU, has indicated it will follow EU policy with regard to entry from people arriving from outside the bloc. 

Because of the pandemic, the EU closed its external borders in March 2020 for non-essential travel, and for the past year has drawn up a regularly updated list of non-member states whose residents are allowed to travel to Europe.

As well as the US, several other countries were added to the list: Albania, Lebanon, North Macedonia, Serbia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao.

The safe list already included Japan, Australia, Israel, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.

Countries can be included if they have recorded fewer than 75 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 inhabitants over the past 14 days. In the United States this rate is 73.9, according to figures from the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC).

News that the United States is to be added to the approved list came one day after Brussels and Washington renewed friendlier ties at a summit between President Joe Biden and EU chiefs Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel.

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Calendar: The transport strikes to expect in Italy in summer 2023

After walkouts caused travel disruption throughout Italy in spring, strikes affecting flights, trains and public transport are set to continue in the summer months.

Calendar: The transport strikes to expect in Italy in summer 2023

Transport strikes are hardly unusual during Italy’s summer months, and this year will be no exception. 

According to the Transport Ministry’s calendar, Italian unions representing airline, railway and public transport staff have already called a number of strikes which threaten to affect the travel plans of locals and international visitors.

Here’s a look at the walkouts that are more likely to cause serious transport disruption in the coming weeks.  

Public transport

June 16th: Staff from ATM, Milan’s  main public transport operator, will take part in a 24-hour walkout on Friday, June 16th. 

The strike is currently expected to affect all surface services (trams, buses, trolley buses, etc.) as well as metro lines, with passengers likely to face significant delays and/or cancellations during the day. 

READ ALSO: Should you travel in Italy when there’s a strike on?

July 7th: Public transport staff all around the country will strike for 24 hours on Friday, July 7th. 

Strike at Roma Termini station in Italy

The level of disruption caused by transport strikes in Italy can vary greatly from region to region, or even from city to city. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

All types of service (from buses to metro lines to ferries) may be affected by delays or cancellations during the day. Once again, however, the level of disruption caused by the demonstration will largely vary from region to region, or even from city to city.

Rail travel

June 23rd: Staff at Trenord, which operates regional trains in Lombardy, will strike from 9am to 5pm on Friday, June 23rd. 

The protest is expected to cause delays and/or cancellations to all of Trenord’s services, including the Malpensa Express, which connects Milan Malpensa Airport with Milano Centrale station. 

Air travel

June 18th: Security staff at Milan Malpensa Airport will strike for four hours – from 11am to 3pm – on Sunday, June 18th. 

READ ALSO: OPINION: Italy’s constant strikes are part of the country’s DNA

There currently are no further details regarding the walkout, though ground operations, including passenger security screening, may reasonably experience delays during the strike.  

June 20th: Handling staff at airports all around the country will take part in a 24-hour walkout on Tuesday, June 20th. 

Since three of Italy’s largest transport workers’ unions will take part in the strike, the protest is expected to cause at least some level of disruption at all of Italy’s major airports, especially at check-in desks and in baggage collection areas.

But flight delays or cancellations may also be on the cards during the day.

Flights cancelled as shown by departure board

Nationwide airport staff strikes in Italy may ultimately result in flight delays or even cancellations. Photo by John MACDOUGALL / AFP

Besides the national 24-hour strike, ground staff at a number of Italian airports, including Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, Milan Malpensa Airport and the Amerigo Vespucci Airport in Florence will hold separate protests on Tuesday. These protests may exacerbate the disruption caused by the national walkout. 

July 15th: Staff at ENAV, Italy’s main air traffic control operator, will take part in a national 24-hour strike on Saturday, July 15th.

Though no further details are currently available, the protest may cause disruption to scheduled flights at airports all around the country.

How bad are strikes in Italy?

The magnitude of any planned demonstration in Italy largely depends on the level of participation by staff in the relevant transport sector.

That said, even in the case of highly disruptive strikes, essential services (or servizi minimi) are guaranteed to operate at some times of the day, which are commonly known as fascie protette (‘protected time windows’).

This goes for all transport sectors, from local public transport to rail and air travel.

There currently aren’t any national transport strikes scheduled beyond July 15th, but The Local will update this article should further demonstrations be announced. 

While industry strikes are heavily regulated in Italy, unplanned demonstrations cannot be fully ruled out.