As would-be travelers from the U.S. to Europe may soon learn, local pandemic decisions can have global effects

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Good morning. David Meyer here in Berlin, filling in for Alan.

Could Americans be banned from entering the European Union when it opens its borders to most of the world next week? That’s a distinct possibility, according to plans being discussed today among EU ambassadors.

When the EU’s external borders open July 1, the idea is that people will only be allowed to enter from countries that have an infection rate below the EU average. According to Politico, only 50 countries or so would qualify under that condition, including China. The U.S. and Brazil, for example, would not.

The EU average is around 16 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. The current U.S. figure is 107, while Brazil has 190 cases per 100,000, according to the New York Times, which also says the diplomats will issue their recommendation early next week.

Now, it’s important to remember that the U.S. has also closed its borders to European visitors since March—when the EU rather than the U.S. was the virus’s main playground—and has made no firm commitment to letting them back in anytime soon. So there may be an element of reciprocity involved here.

Nonetheless, the fact remains that the U.S. is currently a coronavirus epicenter, and the situation there is worsening. Most U.S. states have rising case numbers, with early re-openers such as Georgia, Florida and Texas being badly hit. California, the most populous state, is seeing record-breaking infection figures. Meanwhile, President Trump has repeatedly claimed that the numbers are the product of increased testing, as opposed to a resurgence that could reasonably be linked to states’ keenness to reopen as quickly as possible.

The pandemic is certainly not over in Europe, either. A massive outbreak at a meat-processing plant in the town of Gütersloh this week led to Germany’s first re-imposition of a serious lockdown, albeit local rather than wider, and Serbian tennis ace Novak Djokovic arguably contributed to the infection of several players—including himself—by bullishly organizing a competition in Belgrade while most observers warned this was a risky move.

But broadly speaking, the fact remains that Europe has managed to restart its economies without causing a huge uptick in infections. There is no clear consensus as to why this is, but Europeans’ behavioral changes and general caution in the lifting of restrictions are likely factors.

Europe would suffer if it continues to shut out Americans. As London Capital Group research chief Jasper Lawler said in a Wednesday note, a drop in European markets early today was caused by that potential move. “Blocking U.S. travellers would heighten the risks for travel and hospitality industries that badly need every tourist dollar possible,” he wrote.

But at the very least, the possibility demonstrates that state and federal decisions about tackling the pandemic can have global implications.

More news below.

David Meyer

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