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Coronavirus: Trump bans travel from Europe to US

US President Donald Trump suspends travel from Europe to the US to stop importation of coronavirus (©The White House)

US President Donald Trump has suspended travel from Europe to the US amid coronavirus threats. He announced sweeping travel restrictions on 26 European countries including Germany in a bid to combat the spread of the virus.

The ban applies to travelers from countries which are members of the Schengen border-free travel area.

The UK, Ireland and other non-Schengen countries are unaffected. US citizens are also exempt.

The EU condemned the measures, which it said were taken “unilaterally and without consultation”.

The new rules go into effect on Friday at midnight EDT (0400 GMT) and mark a major escalation from the US president, who has been accused of inaction over the coronavirus.

There are 1,135 confirmed cases of the virus across the US, with 38 deaths so far.

Shares around the world fell further following Mr Trump’s announcement. At the start of US trading, shares plunged triggering an automatic temporary suspension in trading aimed at curbing panicky selling.

“This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history,” he said in a prime-time televised address from the Oval Office.

Justifying the travel restrictions, he accused the EU of failing to take “the same precautions” as the US in fighting the virus.

In his speech he said all travel from Europe would be suspended, but a presidential proclamation later said it would only apply to anyone who had been in the EU’s Schengen border-free area in the 14 days before their arrival in the US.

Mr Trump said the suspension would also apply to cargo coming from Europe into the US. He later tweeted to say that trade would “in no way be affected”.

Permanent residents of the US are not affected by the ban as are certain family members such as their children. Children of US nationals or permanent residents will also be allowed entry.

Legal spouses of US citizens or permanent residents are not affected as are parents of US citizens or permanent residents as long as their children are unmarried and under the age of 21.

Siblings of US citizens or permanent residents are also exempt, “provided that both are unmarried and under the age of 21.”

Other exceptions are made for foreign nationals including crew members on planes or boats, UN or Nato employees and those travelling on the invitation of the US government.

It also exempts “any alien whose entry would not pose a significant risk of introducing, transmitting, or spreading the virus, as determined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services”.

The US Department of Homeland Security has said that further guidance on the travel suspension will come within the next two days.

The declaration warns that: “An alien who circumvents the application of this proclamation through fraud, willful misrepresentation of a material fact, or illegal entry shall be a priority for removal by the Department of Homeland Security.”

The speech included plans to provide billions of dollars in loans to small businesses and the president urged Congress to free up more funds.

President Trump said for most Americans the risk was “very, very low” adding, “no nation is more prepared or more resilient than the United States”.

“The EU disapproves of the fact that the US decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation,” European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel said in a statement.

Senior Democrats said it was “alarming” that President Trump had not addressed a shortage of coronavirus testing kits in the US.

“The best way to help keep the American people safe and ensure their economic security is for the president to focus on fighting the spread of the coronavirus itself,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.

On the travel ban, Lawrence Gostin, a public health expert at Georgetown University, tweeted: “Most of Europe is as safe as US. This will have no impact on US … germs don’t respect borders.”

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