EU reopens its borders to 14 nations but not to US tourists

The European Union announced Tuesday that it will reopen its borders to travelers from 14 countries, but most Americans have been refused entry for at least another two weeks. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 30 June 2020

EU reopens its borders to 14 nations but not to US tourists

  • Travelers from other big countries like Russia, Brazil and India will also miss out

BRUSSELS: The European Union announced Tuesday that it will reopen its borders to travelers from 14 countries, but most Americans have been refused entry for at least another two weeks due to soaring coronavirus infections in the U.S.
Travelers from other big countries like Russia, Brazil and India will also miss out.
Citizens from the following countries will be allowed into the EU's 27 members and four other nations in Europe's visa-free Schengen travel zone: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.
The EU said China is “subject to confirmation of reciprocity,” meaning it must lift all restrictions on European citizens entering China before it will allow Chinese citizens back in.
Countries considered for the safe list are also expected to lift any bans they might have in place on European travelers.
As Europe’s economies reel from the impact of the coronavirus, southern EU countries like Greece, Italy and Spain are desperate to entice back sun-loving visitors and breathe life into their damaged tourism industries.
More than 15 million Americans are estimated to travel to Europe each year, while some 10 million Europeans head across the Atlantic.
Still, many people both inside and outside Europe remain wary of travel in the coronavirus era, given the unpredictability of the pandemic and the possibility of second waves of infection that could affect flights and hotel bookings. Tens of thousands of travelers had a frantic, chaotic scramble in March to get home as the pandemic swept across the world and borders slammed shut.
EU envoys to Brussels have launched a written procedure which would see the list endorsed Tuesday as long as no objections are raised by member countries. The list is expected to contain up to 15 countries that have virus infection rates comparable to those in the EU.
The countries would also have to lift any bans they might have on European travelers. The list of permitted nations is to be updated every 14 days, with new countries being added or even dropping off depending on if they are keeping the disease under control.
The daily number of new confirmed cases in the United States has surged over the past week. The US has the world’s worst coronavirus outbreak, with nearly 2.6 million people confirmed infected and over 126,000 dead, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University that experts say understates the pandemic’s true toll due to limited testing and other reasons.
In contrast, aside from a notable recent outbreak tied to a slaughterhouse in western Germany, the virus’s spread has generally stabilized across much of continental Europe.
In March, President Donald Trump suspended all people from Europe’s ID check-free travel zone from entering the U.S., making it unlikely now that U.S. citizens would qualify to enter the EU.
The EU imposed restrictions on non-essential travel to its 27 nations, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, which are part of the Schengen open-borders area, in March to halt the spread of the virus. Non-EU citizens who are already living in Europe are not included in the ban.
The EU list does not apply to travel to Britain, which left the EU in January. Britain now requires all incoming travelers — bar a few exceptions like truck drivers — to go into a self-imposed 14-day quarantine, although the measure is under review and is likely to ease in the coming weeks. The requirement also applies to UK citizens.


Religion, no bar: Muslim group cremates Hindus as virus fear grips Mumbai

Updated 12 min 11 sec ago

Religion, no bar: Muslim group cremates Hindus as virus fear grips Mumbai

  • Officials say a majority are under lockdown or afraid to perform last rites

NEW DELHI: Pratamesh Walavalker was always proud of living in a well-connected area with neighbors and relatives who look out for each other.

However, the resident of Dombivali East, nearly 70 kilometers from India’s financial capital Mumbai, experienced a harsh reality check on Thursday.

None of his neighbors or more than 100 relatives responded to his calls for help when his 57-year-old father died of coronavirus-related complications.

Help, he said, finally arrived in the form of Iqbal Mamdani and his group of Muslim volunteers, who took his father’s body to a cremation ground for his last rites.

“No one came to our help, not even my close neighbor. There is so much panic among people about COVID-19 that our own don’t come near us. The Muslim volunteers helped us in this hour of crisis,” Walavalker, 28, told Arab News.

That same night, 50-year-old Mamdani and his group of volunteers helped another family perform the last rites of an 80-year-old Hindu woman who had also fallen victim to the disease.

The group was formed in late March after a local civic body said: “All dead bodies of COVID-19 patients should be cremated at the nearest crematorium irrespective of religion.”

After reports of a Muslim man being cremated in the Malwani area of the city angered the community, several members met with the authorities and managed to revise the order.

Since then, Mamdani said members of Mumbai’s Bada Qabrastan — the largest cemetery in the city — have extended their services to other communities as well.

“We get calls from different hospitals and people, and they seek our help in taking bodies to their final resting place. We decided to help the victims at this hour of crisis when there was chaos and panic in the city with the number of coronavirus cases increasing every day,” he told Arab News.

So far, the group has buried 450 Muslim bodies and cremated over 250 Hindu bodies.

He said their efforts would have been impossible without the Jama Masjid Trust, which oversees the Bada Qabrastan.

“On our request, the government allowed us to bury the dead bodies in seven burial grounds in the city,” he said.

There was one problem, however.

“No one was willing to come forward to collect dead bodies from the hospital and bring them to the cemetery,” Mamdani said.

Through word of mouth, Mamdani said seven Muslim volunteers quickly offered to help out.

The first challenge the group faced was a lack of ambulances, due to a shortage in supply as a result of the pandemic.

At first, they tried renting a private ambulance, “but the owner would not rent their vehicles for carrying COVID-19 victims,” Mamdani said.

With no other option left, the group decided to pool their resources and buy abandoned ambulances.

Mamdani said: “We managed to get 10 such vehicles from different parts of the city. With the help of mechanics and other resources, within eight days we managed to roll out the ambulances on the road.”

When the volunteers began gathering Muslim bodies from the hospital, they realized that several Hindu bodies had been left unclaimed, as their relatives “were too scared to perform the last rites.”

Mamdani said another factor behind unclaimed Hindu bodies was quarantine. The lockdown forced relatives to stay indoors and avoid the cremation grounds.

Experts have praised the efforts of the group.

“The Muslim volunteers have been really great support. They started working at a time when there was total chaos and panic in Mumbai,” Dr. Sulbha Sadaphule of Cooper Hospital, Mumbai, told Arab News.

Of the 820,000 COVID-19 cases in India, 100,000 are in Mumbai, where around 5,500 people have lost their lives from the nationwide fatality count of around 22,500.

“The morgue was overflowing with bodies because of a lack of ambulances and staff. When hospital staff and health workers were short in numbers they were helping us and the people,” added Dr. Sadaphule.

Mamdani said they would not have done it any other way.

“India is a country of religious harmony and we believe there should be no discrimination on the basis of religion. With this motto we decided to perform the last rites on behalf of the Hindu families with the support of the police and relatives,” he said.