Explained: What Trump's EU travel suspension means and who all are affected?
The new rules will go into effect on Friday at midnight. The travel order does not apply to US citizens.
As the US is grappling to contain the spread of coronavirus in the country, which has so far killed 38 people and infected 1,135, President Donald Trump has announced that he is suspending most travel from Europe to the US for 30 days. A presidential proclamation issued later specified that only travellers from the 26 countries in the Schengen border-free travel area were barred.
But the restrictions would not apply to the UK, which has reported 460 cases of the virus. The new rules will go into effect on Friday at midnight and do not apply to US citizens. While announcing the move, the Republican leader blamed the EU countries for not acting quickly enough to address the “foreign virus”.
Who all are affected?
A presidential proclamation, published shortly after Trump's speech, specified that the ban applied to most foreign nationals who had been in the EU's Schengen border-free area in the 14 days before their arrival in the US.
The Schengen area, as defined in the proclamation, includes 26 European states, but does not include the UK or Ireland, which will not be subject to the ban.
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 are among the affected countries.
American citizens and legal permanent residents who are in Europe will still be allowed back into the US during the 30-day period, though will be screened upon entry and face quarantine or restrictions on their movement. However, it is not clear whether airlines will still fly the routes if passenger demand from European nationals dries up because of the ban.
Trump initally said the travel suspension would also "apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo" coming from Europe into the US. He later tweeted to say that trade would "in no way be affected".
Hoping to get the payroll tax cut approved by both Republicans and Democrats, and please remember, very important for all countries & businesses to know that trade will in no way be affected by the 30-day restriction on travel from Europe. The restriction stops people not goods.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 12, 2020
In past weeks, the US had already temporarily denied entry to foreign nationals who have visited China in the 14 days prior to their arrival to the US, issued travel restrictions on travellers from Iran and had issued “do not travel” warnings to areas in Italy and South Korea.
Democrats call President’s speech “alarming”
Reacting to his speech, senior Democrats said it was "alarming" that President Trump did not address a shortage of coronavirus testing kits in the US.
"We have a public health crisis in this country and the best way to help keep the American people safe and ensure their economic security is for the President to focus on fighting the spread of the coronavirus itself," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in a joint statement.
“Alarmingly, the President did not say how the administration will address the lack of coronavirus testing kits throughout the United States,” it added.
On the travel ban, Lawrence Gostin, a public health expert at Georgetown University, tweeted: "most of Europe is as safe as US. This will have no impact on US ... germs don't respect borders".
Situation in the rest of the world
Earlier on Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said the outbreak was a pandemic -- a disease that is spreading in multiple countries around the world at the same time.
WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the number of cases outside China had increased 13-fold in two weeks. Italy is the worst-affected country outside China, with more than 12,000 confirmed cases and a death toll of 827. So far, the virus has claimed over 4,600 lives and infected more than 124, 000 people across the world.