Coronavirus Update: Trump Extends European Travel to UK and Ireland; EU and U.S. Officials React

Twenty-eight countries will be affected by the ban, which critics say could have a devastating economic impact. 


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UPDATED ON MARCH 18, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. EDT

LATEST: The European Union is banning foreign travelers from outside the bloc for the next 30 days in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Long-term residents, family of EU nationals, diplomats and healthcare workers are excluded. UK citizens are also exempt from the ban.

Meanwhile, the U.S. travel ban on Europe has been extended to the United Kingdom and Ireland. In total, 28 European countries are now affected. The U.S./Canada border has also been closed to nonessential travel.

The economic effect of the U.S. ban will be significant. The UK alone accounted for 4.7 million visitors who spend $15.7 billion in the U.S. in 2018, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Ireland totaled 531,000 visitors and $2 billion in spending.

"The public's health and safety is priority No. 1, and we hope the aggressive steps taken by the federal government succeed in putting the moment of greatest concern behind us. Hearing of the need to further expand travel restrictions -- especially the inclusion of our No. 1 overseas source market, the UK -- is obviously not the development the U.S. travel industry was hoping for," said U.S. Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow in a statement. "Aggressive steps will also be needed to address the health of the U.S. economy, the small businesses that make up 83 percent of all U.S. travel employers, and the 15.8 million travel-supported jobs that are going to feel a catastrophic impact from coronavirus."

In a live address from the Oval Office, President Trump announced a ban on travelers coming from Europe, to prevent the spread of coronavirus. His announcement last night came just hours after the World Health Organization officially called COVID-19 a pandemic.

The 30-day day travel ban will take effect Friday, March 13, at midnight. It will restrict foreigners from all countries that make up the European Union’s Schengen Area, where travel is permitted without a passport, from entering the United States. These countries include Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. On March 15, Trump extended the travel ban to the United Kingdom and Ireland.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the ban only applies to foreign nationals. U.S. citizens who have undergone appropriate screenings, as well as green card holders and family members of U.S. citizens, will not be affected. Americans will, however, be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days if returning from Europe.

"The European Union failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel from China and other hot spots," said Trump during a press briefing. "As a result, a large number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travelers from Europe. After consulting with our top government health professionals, I have decided to take several strong but necessary actions to protect the health and well-being of all Americans."

The European Union quickly condemned the ban. In a joint letter, European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, "The coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent, and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action. The European Union disapproves of the fact that the U.S. decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation. The European Union is taking strong action to limit the spread of the virus."

The travel suspension created controversy domestically as well. "Temporarily shutting off travel from Europe is going to exacerbate the already-heavy impact of coronavirus on the travel industry and the 15.7 million Americans whose jobs depend on travel," said Dow of the U.S. Travel Association in a statement. "We have and will continue to engage Congress and the administration on policy steps that are necessary to ensure that travel employers — 83 percent of which are small businesses — can keep the lights on for their employees."

In March 2019, 850,000 international visitors flew from continental Europe to the United States — representing about 29 percent of total overseas arrival — and spent a total of about $3.4 billion in the U.S., according to U.S Travel economists. "In taking aggressive steps to protect the public against coronavirus," Dow continued, "the U.S. government should now consider equally aggressive steps to protect America's workforce and employers. The public's health is the top concern, but now the policy conversation must address the health of the economy."

The current coronavirus tally from WHO includes more than 118,000 cases and nearly 4,300 deaths globally. The United States has more than 1,200 confirmed cases and with 38 deaths, across 43 states and Washington, D.C., according to CNN. High-profile cases that have been reported include the infections of U.K. health minister Nadine Dorries and actor Tom Hanks and his wife, actress Rita Wilson.

In response to the growing outbreak and after a player from the Utah Jazz tested positive for coronavirus, the National Basketball Association has suspended all games until further notice. The National Hockey League has suspended its season indefinitely and Major League Baseball has suspended spring training.

Broadway is shutting down until April 13, after two ushers tested positive for COVID-19. A number of cultural institutions, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, are also closing their doors.

A growing number of state and city governments have begun placing restrictions on events and mass gatherings. Among the most recent ones are California and Washington. Click here for a full list of destinations that have prohibited or warned against large gatherings.