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In an announcement from the Oval Office, President Trump on Wednesday night issued a 30-day travel ban from Europe beginning Friday at midnight.
Travelers from the UK would not be subject to the ban, the president said.
He issued the European travel suspension, citing the progress made in the U.S. fighting coronavirus because of his earlier ban of travel from China.
The ban could have a sweeping impact. Excluding the UK, nearly 11 million passengers flew from Europe to the U.S. in 2018, the last year data are available. The number represented 27 percent of all overseas visitors to the United States.
What’s more, Europe accounts for significant revenue for the airlines. In 2019, United Airlines derived $7.4 billion from Europe (17 percent of its total), Delta Air Lines $6.4 billion (15 percent of total), and American Airlines $4.6 billion (11 percent total). These figures include the UK.
Trump claimed intense action against novel coronavirus from his administration limited the outbreak in the U.S., allegedly that was unlike the European Union, which he said didn’t take stiff action early against travel from China and other hot spots. He said Europe’s lax stance led to new clusters of the virus in the United States.
The president said the 30-day suspension of travel from Europe would be adjusted according to “conditions on the ground.”
Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings for the virus would be exempted from the ban, he said.
Trump’s abrupt 30-day suspension of travel to the United States from Europe will be highly disruptive; it caught Americans and others at airports wondering if they’d be allowed to enter the country.
Following Trump’s speech, Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf issued a statement indicating that the travel suspension from Europe “does not apply to legal permanent residents, (generally) immediate family members of U.S. citizens, and other family members who are identified in the proclamation,” referring to a presidential proclamation about the new policy.
Wolf conceded that the travel suspension from Europe would be disruptive, but he said it was necessary to protection Americans from coronavirus’ deadly impact.
He added that he would soon issue a supplemental Notice of Arrival Restriction covering American travelers who have traveled through the European Union airports where the U.S. has “implemented enhanced screening procedures.”
The Trade Confusion
The restrictions would apply likewise to trade, cargo, “and various other things” pending approval, Trump said in the speech.
“Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing,” Trump said.
However, a few minutes after his speech, Trump contradicted his own words in a tweet, saying that “trade will in no way be affected by the 30-day restriction on travel from Europe. The restriction stops people, not goods.”
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
Trump said the suspension of travel to the U.S. from Europe would not apply to the UK, although he didn’t specify why.
He added that the U.S. is monitoring the virus situations in South Korea and China, and as the outbreak gets reduced in those countries the United States would reevaluation restrictions and warnings that apply to those two countries.
Skift Senior Research Analyst Seth Borko contributed to this report.