The EU’s latest guidance on requiring restrictions for travelers from the US, such as quarantine and Covid-19 testing, comes after a summer where American tourists could travel to Europe without restrictions.
The US, however, has always had a travel ban in place for most travelers from Europe and the UK, even when case rates and hospitalizations were higher in the US and vaccination rates were higher in Europe.
Lawful US permanent residents and the spouses, minor children, parents or legal guardian’s of US citizens can travel to the US, according to the State department. But the US has kept families separated by, for instance, blocking British citizens who work in the US from being to re-enter the US if they travel to the UK to visit family unless they can obtain a waiver, are diplomats, meet other criteria or can afford to spend two weeks quarantine in a third country before their return to the US.
EU recommends against lifting Covid-19 restrictions for US travelers
The European Union has removed the US from a Covid-19 ‘white list’ of places whose tourists should be permitted entry without restrictions such as mandatory quarantine.
A majority of EU countries had reopened their borders to Americans in June, in the hope of salvaging the summer tourism season although most required a negative test ahead of travel. The move was not, however, reciprocated by the US.
The EU’s “white list” necessitates having fewer than 75 new cases daily per 100,000 people over the previous 14 days – a threshold that is not currently being met in the US.
According to Johns Hopkins University, the US suffered the world’s highest number of infections over the past 28 days. Also removed from the EU’s safe list due to a spike in Covid infections are Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro, and the Republic of North Macedonia.
The guidance is non-binding and the recommendation is that the fully vaccinated should nevertheless be granted entry for non-essential travel.
Elsewhere in US foreign policy, lawyers for hundreds of survivors and families of people killed in Yemen’s civil war have called on the International Criminal Court to open an investigation of military forces led by Saudi Arabia and backed by the US for alleged war crimes.
Lawyer Almudena Bernabeu is representing victims of a 2018 airstrike that struck a school and said that earlier promises by the Saudi-led coalition to investigate the attack and bring those responsible to justice had not been fulfilled.
“Of course, they did no such thing,” Bernabeu said in a statement. “As the court of last resort, victims and families have no choice but to call on the International Criminal Court to ensure justice is done.”
Afghanistan: Pentagon questioned about civilian casualties from drone strike
The Guardian’s world affairs editor, Julian Borger, is monitoring the latest updates on Afghanistan.
Responding to repeated questions about civilian casualties from a drone strike on Kabul on Sunday, the Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby said: “We are not in a position to dispute it right now, and … we’re assessing, and we’re investigating.”
The Pentagon insists that the target was an Islamic State car bomb heading for the airport, but reports from Kabul say there were many civilian casualties, including at least six children.
Kirby said that the strike would be thoroughly scrutinised, but added decisions about such strikes had to be made very quickly because of the nature of suicide attacks carried out by IS.
“We have to try to be as quick and as nimble as [IS] are. ..We believed this to be an imminent threat,” Kirby said. “We took the action that we believed was the most necessary at the best opportunity to thwart that attack.”
The US health department is preparing to launch an office focused on the climate crisis as a public health issue, something it outlined in a January executive order.
The Wall Street Journal, citing anonymous sources, said resources for the new Office of Climate Change and Health Equity are being assembled now. The WSJ reports:
The new office is likely to spur initiatives touching on many aspects of healthcare, according to people briefed on the planning and White House releases. It is expected to offer protections for populations most at risk—including the elderly, minorities, rural communities and children—and could eventually lead to policies compelling hospitals and other care facilities to reduce carbon emissions, the people said.
US health secretary Xavier Becerra has already appointed Arsenio Mataka as senior adviser for health equity and climate in the health department. Mataka was previously an environmental adviser to Becerra when he served as California’s attorney general.
The US is due to complete its troop withdrawal form Afghanistan in the next 48 hours.
The White House this morning said it had evacuated 1,200 people from Kabul in a 24-hour period which began at 3am ET on Sunday. Since 14 Aug, the US has evacuated or helped evacuate about 116,700 people, the White House said.
The Associated Press is reporting that Qatar “played an outsized role” in US evacuation efforts because of its ties with the Taliban and Washington. The country has hosted Taliban political leadership for peace talks with the Afghanistan government and US.
The AP said: For some of the most sensitive rescue efforts in Afghanistan, Qatar conducted the operation with just a few hundred troops and its own military aircraft. Qatar evacuated a girls’ boarding school, an all-girls robotics team and journalists working for international media, among others. Qatar’s ambassador accompanied convoys of buses through a gauntlet of Taliban checkpoints in Kabul and past various Western military checkpoints at the airport, where massive crowds had gathered, desperate to flee.
In Los Angeles, 6,500 students missed one or more days of the first week of school in the second largest district in the country because of Covid-19 cases, according to data obtained by the LA Times.
The Los Angeles Unified School District is requiring all students and staff to be tested each week, providing a model for other districts in the country on how to track Covid-19 cases in their schools, an important tool for preventing the spread of the illness.
Students who missed school in Los Angeles last week were a mix of about 3,000 who had tested positive for Covid-19 and 3,500 others who were told to quarantine after being identified as close contacts of those who had tested positive.
Of the 60,000 employees tested, about 1,000 missed one day of work because they either tested positive or were required to quarantine after being in contact with a person who tested positive.
There are 451,000 students attending classes in-person in the district while about 10,000 have opted to attend school online.
Uncertainty for US schools amid Delta variant threat
It is the first day of school in some parts of the country today, and there is uncertainty about what the school year will actually look like with the patchwork of Covid-19 rules and the spread of the delta variant.
Last week, a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that an unvaccinated teacher in a California elementary school infected half her students and 26 people in total in May. The teacher did not wear a mask as she read to students, even though the school required face coverings indoors and they were one of only two staff members at the school who were unvaccinated.
More than 180,000 Covid-19 cases were reported in children from 12 August to 19 August and represented about 22.4% of the weekly reported cases, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
As of 25 August, 11.7m children under age 18 had received the first dose of the vaccine.
There are also tensions around how rules to prevent the spread of Covid-19 will be enforced and the response from parents. When school started two weeks ago in northern California’s Amador county, a parent attacked a principal over a mask dispute.
We will have updates on that and other US news today in the blog.