US President Donald Trump on Wednesday imposed sweeping restrictions to prevent people from 26 European countries from traveling to the United States for a month as he responded to mounting pressure to take action against the spread of the coronavirus.
The president took the dramatic step in a somber Oval Office speech as he battled to address the health and economic shocks to Americans from the sometimes fatal virus and responded to criticism he has not taken the threat seriously enough.
The travel order does not apply to the United Kingdom and Ireland, and does not apply to American citizens.
“This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history,” he said.
“I am confident that by counting and continuing to take these tough measures, we will significantly reduce the threat to our citizens, and we will ultimately and expeditiously defeat this virus.”
Trump pulled no punches in saying Europe was partly to blame for the virus’ spread in the United States, where it has killed at least 37 people and infected 1,281. His travel restrictions on Europe were similar to what he declared on travel from China earlier this year when the illness was spreading wildly there.
“The European Union failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel from China and other hot spots. As a result, a large number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travelers from Europe,” he said.
Trump signed an order that suspends the entry of most foreign nationals who have been in certain European countries at any point during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the United States.
The list of countries included 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, the Homeland Security Department said.
The order did not apply to American citizens, legal permanent residents of the United States, immediate family members of US citizens, and other individuals who are identified in the proclamation.
Trump said the restrictions will be adjusted subject to conditions on the ground.
The US State Department issued a travel advisory on its website on Wednesday, advising US citizens to reconsider travel abroad due to the global impact of the coronavirus outbreak. [Reuters]