Pompeo says U.S. working with Europe on how to reopen travel safely

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gives a news conference about dealings with China and Iran, and on the fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Washington, U.S., June 24, 2020. Mangel Ngan/Pool via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday the United States was working with countries in Europe and elsewhere on how to reopen for travel safely following coronavirus-linked shutdowns, after details emerged of EU criteria that could keep out Americans due to high rates of coronavirus infections.

“We’re working on finding the right way to do that, the right timing to do it, the right tactics to have in place,” Pompeo told a news conference.

“We certainly don’t want to cause problems any place else. I’m very confident in the coming weeks, we’ll figure that out, as between, not only the United States and the EU, but the United States and other parts of the world.”

The European Union hopes to reopen borders for outsiders beginning in July, but will review nations’ COVID-19 situation fortnightly, according to diplomats and a document seen by Reuters laying out criteria that could keep Americans and Russians out.

Draft recommendations from the EU’s current presidency, Croatia, suggest allowing non-EU nationals in from countries with stable or decreasing infections, and those with a “comparable or better epidemiological situation” than Europe.

That epidemiological criteria is defined as 16 to 20 new cases of infection reported over 14 days per 100,000 people.

Nations would also be assessed for their records on testing, contact tracing and treatment, reliability of data, and reciprocal travel arrangements for EU residents, according to the document, to be debated in Brussels on Wednesday.

Based on data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the methodology could rule out travelers from the United States and Mexico, most of South America, South Africa, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, among others.

The United States, where President Donald Trump banned European visitors at the start of the crisis, has by far the highest number of deaths and cases.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Arshad Mohammed and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Jonathan Oatis