US President Donald Trump has announced sweeping travel restrictions on 26 European countries in a bid to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
The measures apply to travelers from countries that are members of the Schengen border-free travel area. The UK, Ireland and other non-Schengen countries are unaffected. Exemptions are also being made for US citizens.
In an address to the nation President Trump said the “strong but necessary” actions would help protect Americans.
The new rules go into effect on Friday at midnight EDT and mark a major escalation from the US president, who has been accused of inaction over coronavirus.
There are 1,135 confirmed cases of the virus across the US, with 38 deaths so far.
President Donald Trump closed America’s border to most of Europe on Wednesday night to fight the spread of the “foreign virus” by prohibiting air and maritime travel from one of the largest U.S. trading partners and travel destinations, as the coronavirus reached pandemic status.
Delivering only his second Oval Office address to the nation, Trump took the historic action in an attempt to follow on his self-proclaimed success last month when his administration suspended all travel from China as COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, rapidly spread there.
The restrictions begin on Friday at midnight and will apply to all foreign-born persons who visited Europe within the last 14 days. A fact sheet on the order released by the White House said that the restrictions will be in effect for 30 days and will not apply to American citizens, legal permanent residents, and their families, or goods and cargo.
What else did the US president Trump say about Coronavirus restrictions?
“This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history,” he said. Justifying the travel restrictions, he accused the EU of failing to take “the same precautions” as the US in fighting the virus.
His speech said all travel from Europe would be suspended but a presidential proclamation later said it would only apply to anyone who had been in the EU’s Schengen border-free area in the 14 days before their arrival in the US. Trump also said the suspension would also apply to cargo coming from Europe into the US. He later tweeted to say that trade would “in no way be affected”.
Trump encouraged Americans to follow health safety guidelines published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, urged elderly citizens – who are most at risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19 – to avoid non-essential travel to crowded areas, and for all citizens to listen closely to the advice of local officials.
How badly has the US been hit with Coronavirus?
Concern over the outbreak rose after a number of new cases were confirmed earlier this month. Containment efforts have begun in earnest. Troops have been deployed to New Rochelle, just north of New York City, where one outbreak is believed to have originated.
The National Guard will deliver food to some individuals who have been told to self-isolate there. The governor of Washington state has also banned large gatherings in several counties. The north-western state is the focal point of the outbreak in the US, accounting for 24 of at least 38 deaths across the country.
Stock markets have been volatile and futures tumbled at the news in a sign of market concern that the bans would further inhibit trade with the United States’ largest trading partner. The S&P 500 entered bear market territory on Wednesday, marking a perilous milestone for a president who has campaigned on roaring financial markets as an indicator of the strength of his economic policies.
The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus’ spread a pandemic on Wednesday as over 100 nations sought to prevent contagion. Trump blamed the spread of the disease in the United States on the failure of Europe to curtail movement across its borders and made a point that the disease originated in China.