- President Donald Trump announced that his administration is suspending travel from Europe – except the UK and Ireland.
- Trump’s announcement caused confusion, as he initially said cargo would be impacted – this was later retracted – and it was unclear who was impacted by the travel ban.
- The Department of Homeland Security released guidelines after his speech. Legal permanent residents and, in most cases, the family members of US citizens would not be impacted by this proclamation.
- “While these new travel restrictions will be disruptive to some travellers, this decisive action is needed to protect the American public from further exposure to the potentially deadly coronavirus,” DHS Acting Secretary Chad F. Wolf said.
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President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that all travel from Europe, except for the UK and Ireland, will be suspended for at least a month.
In a press conference, Trump said travel to the continent will be suspended for 30 days, starting this Friday, saying these measures were “strong but necessary.”
The president also signed a Presidential Proclamation, in which non-US citizens who visited some European countries two weeks before coming to the US would not be allowed into the country, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
The affected European countries include, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
Together these countries form the Schengen area, an open-borders arrangement which means mostly unrestricted travel between the member nations.
For instance, it is possible to travel from Denmark, to Italy, to Latvia, then to France without any passport checks.
The United Kingdom and Ireland are not part of this arrangement, and continue to operate harder borders.
“While these new travel restrictions will be disruptive to some travellers, this decisive action is needed to protect the American public from further exposure to the potentially deadly coronavirus,” DHS Acting Secretary Chad F. Wolf said.
Legal permanent residents and, in most cases, the family members of US citizens would not be impacted by this proclamation.
Trump initially said cargo from Europe would be banned, but the White House later said it would not be impacted.
White House officials believe Europe is the single biggest originator of new coronavirus infections, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
“A real threat right now is Europe,” Robert Redfield, the director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, told a House committee last Thursday. “That’s where the cases are coming in. Europe is the new China.”
The coronavirus is rapidly spreading through Europe. Italy, the worst-hit country outside China, instituted a nationwide lockdown this week, as more than 12,000 people have been infected and at least 825 people have died from the virus.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Wednesday that up to 70% of her country’s population may become infected by the virus, according to the German newspaper Bild.
France has over 2,250 COVID-19 case with at least 48 deaths and Spain has seen a huge surge in new cases. Spain currently also has over 2,250 cases and 55 deaths.
The CDC issued Level 3 advisories for Italy, Iran, China, and South Korea late last month. Japan is at a Level 2, which urges Americans to take enhanced precautions while travelling to the country, and Hong Kong is at a Level 1, which urges “usual precautions.”
On Wednesday, the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus, which has spread to more than 100 countries, a pandemic.
The WHO defines a pandemic as “the worldwide spread of a new disease.” The determination is based on the geographic spread of a disease, the severity of illnesses it causes, and its effects on society. The WHO is concerned both about how quickly the virus is spreading and the inaction it’s being met with by governments around the world.
COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, has sickened more than 126,000 people and killed over 4,600 people around the world.
Jake Lahut, Hilary Brueck, Anna Medaris Miller, and Kieran Corcoran contributed to this report.