President Donald Trump's administration unveiled a major European travel ban on Wednesday night, banning foreign nationals who had visited most European countries from entering the country for at least the next 30 days.
The travel ban – which takes effect Friday, March 13 at midnight – does not apply to U.S. residents or their relatives, who can continue traveling to and from Europe. But it may create additional restrictions on U.S. citizens, such as requiring that they return via specific airports for additional health screenings. The Department of Homeland Security was expected to issue more guidance in the coming days.
Shortly afterward, the U.S. State Department issued a level 3 travel advisory for all global travel, urging citizens to reconsider any and all travel.
It's a massive escalation meant to halt the spread of coronavirus as more than 1,300 cases have been confirmed in the U.S. And it's sure to hit airlines hard at a time when they're already struggling with dropping demand for travel.
But the rollout was marred by confusion and questions. Trump declared clearly during his primetime address Wednesday that all travel from Europe to the U.S. would be halted – including goods and cargo. He specifically exempted travel from the United Kingdom, and said that Americans “who have undergone appropriate screenings” would also be exempt – but did not elaborate on what qualified as an appropriate screening.
“To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days,” Trump said in a primetime address to the nation. “Anything coming from Europe to the U.S. is what we are discussing.” Trump said the new rules would take effect at midnight on Friday, March 13.
Soon after, Trump's Department of Homeland Security issued a statement clarifying that the ban would only apply to foreign nationals who have traveled through Schengen Area countries within the past 14 days. That means both the United Kingdom and Ireland are exempt, while much of the rest of Europe is included.
It's unclear how the ban may affect travel from the U.S. to Europe – and whether airlines can continue flights as scheduled when Europeans will be unable to enter the country.
The move comes as cases of coronavirus are on the rise in the U.S. and globally. More than 1,300 cases have been confirmed in the U.S., according to data from Johns Hopkins. Worldwide, that number has risen to nearly 128,000 and counting. The World Health Organization officially declared coronavirus a global pandemic earlier Wednesday.
Trump faulted Europe for not containing the spread of the virus. He stressed that the largest risk for coronavirus is for elderly citizens and those with underlying health conditions.
“Smart action today will prevent the spread of the virus tomorrow,” Trump said.
This is a breaking news story. Check back for more updates.