Media Moves

U.S. bans travel from Europe

March 12, 2020

Posted by Irina Slav

President Trump announced a ban on travel from Europe as the number of infected with the Covid-19 coronavirus grows.

Kevin Liptak and Maegan Vazquez reported the news for CNN:

President Donald Trump said Wednesday he was sharply restricting travel to the United States from more than two dozen European countries, a drastic step he framed as an attempt to contain a spreading public health crisis that has engulfed his presidency, caused global market turmoil and disrupted everyday life.

In an primetime Oval Office address meant to rebut criticism that he’s taken the matter too lightly, Trump framed his announcement as a suspension of “all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days.”

But immediately afterward, his administration made clear it was not as drastic as the President stated: The ban will apply only to foreign nationals and not to American citizens who had been screened before entering the country, mimicking restrictions he applied to China last month.

Trump was also forced to clarify he was not blocking goods from Europe, despite saying his ban would “apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo” across the Atlantic. He tweeted the ban would apply to “people not goods” after stock futures tumbled on the prospect of a trade freeze.

The clarifications aside, Trump’s grave-sounding remarks from the Oval Office abandoned his rosy portrayals of the global pandemic, choosing instead to frame the outbreak as a “foreign virus” washing on American shores, despite increasing instances of community spread inside the US.

The AP’s Jill Colvin, Zeke Miller, Lisa Mascaro, and Andrew Taylor wrote:

While Trump said all European travel would be cut off, Homeland Security officials later clarified that the new travel restrictions would apply only to most foreign nationals who have been in the “Schengen Area” at any point for 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the United States. The area includes France, Italy, German, Greece, Austria, Belgium and others, and the White House said the zone has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases outside of mainland China.

The restrictions don’t apply to legal permanent residents, immediate family of U.S. citizens or others “identified in the proclamation” signed by Trump.

And Trump misspoke when he said the prohibitions would “not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things.” The official proclamation released after Trump spoke made clear it applies to people, not goods and cargo.

The Oval Office address represented an abrupt shift in tone from a president who has repeatedly sought to play down the severity of the virus outbreak. Many Americans shared a similar mindset in recent weeks, but the grueling events of Wednesday changed the mood: Communities canceled public events nationwide, universities moved to cancel in-person classes, and families grappled with the impact of disruptions to public schools. The number of confirmed cases of the infection topped 1,000 in the U.S. and the World Health Organization declared the global crisis is now a pandemic.

CNBC’s Leslie Josephs noted the blow this would be to airlines:

The measures are set to further roil the travel industry, particularly airlines that are already scrambling to cut costs by reducing flights, offering employees unpaid, voluntary leave and freezing hiring, as the virus spreads and new travel restrictions are implemented, sapping demand. 

Trump in a televised address called the new coronavirus “foreign” and attacked Europe for not taking the same actions to control the disease that he had.

“As a result” of Europe’s inaction, Trump said, “a large number of clusters” of coronavirus “were seeded by travelers from Europe.”

“This action will hit U.S. airlines, their employees, travelers and the shipping public extremely hard,” Nicholas Calio, president of Airlines for America, a trade group that represents airlines including American, Delta, United and delivery giants FedEx and UPS, said in a statement. “However, we respect the need to take this unprecedented action and appreciate the Administration’s commitment to facilitate travel and trade.”

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