Covid: EU set to impose travel restrictions on US as cases rise

News, Coronavirus pandemic

Covid: EU set to impose travel restrictions on US as cases rise
A nurse tends to a patient in Houston, Texas, where hospitals have been strained by rising cases

The European Union is set to recommend pausing non-essential travel from the US as Covid-19 cases surge.

The daily average for hospital admissions has risen past 100,000 for the first time since last winter.

The recent wave, driven by the Delta variant, is most severe in the US South but cases are rising nationwide.

The guidance from the 27-nation bloc, which is expected this week, would reverse advice from June that lifted restrictions ahead of tourism season.

The recommendation will be nonbinding, meaning individual countries will be allowed to decide if they still wish to allow US visitors with proof of vaccination, negative tests, or quarantine, according to EU diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Though the EU first lifted travel restrictions on Americans in June, the US has kept their ban on European non-essential travel in place since March 2020.

Earlier this month, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the lack of reciprocity would not be allowed to "drag on for weeks".

Hospital admissions in the US for Covid-19 patients have reached levels not seen since January, when the country reached its all-time high with more than 142,000 coronavirus patients in hospital beds.

Florida has more than 16,000 Covid-19 patients in hospital - the most of any state - followed by Texas and California, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services.

The latest surge is straining hospitals and health care workers. Roughly one in five intensive care units have reached at least 95% capacity.

Death rates have risen too - reaching an average of more than 1,000 per day. Just over half of all Americans are fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

With the full approval of the Pfizer vaccine by the US Food and Drug Administration last week, the Biden administration has doubled down on its efforts to increase vaccination rates.

Unvaccinated people are about 29 times more likely to be admitted to hospital with Covid-19 than those who are fully vaccinated, according to a study released by the US Centres of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week.