U.S. President Donald Trump said this evening, just a few hours after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, that travel from Europe to the United States will not be permitted for 30 days beginning Friday, March 13th at midnight. The UK is a notable exception to these restrictions and materials posted by The White House this evening referred to “foreign nationals who have been in the Schengen Area, 26 countries in Europe with open borders agreements, in the last 14 days.” That would also exclude Ireland from the restrictions as it is not part of the Schengen Area. U.S. citizens are also excluded from the entry restrictions.
The announcement was delivered in a nationally televised speech and indicated the measure was necessary due to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus throughout Europe and the heightened risk of travelers bringing more cases into the country.
Trump also suggested that had Europe acted sooner to restrict travel from China like the U.S. had started in January, the situation may not have escalated for both continents. According to a transcript of his prepared speech:
At the very start of the outbreak, we instituted sweeping travel restrictions on China and put in place the first federally mandated quarantine in over 50 years…The European Union failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel from China and other hotspots. As a result, a large number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travelers from Europe.
Travel Limited to Non-U.S. Citizens, No Impact on Trade
The White House was forced to clarify the new policy after the speech as there was confusion regarding the details of the new travel ban. Ken Cuccinelli, acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security, said on Twitter than the restrictions do not apply to “American citizens or legal permanent residents.”
This does not apply to American citizens or legal permanent residents or their families. https://t.co/iZ2nrILhMg
— Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli (@HomelandKen) March 12, 2020
However, citizens and permanent residents will be subject to health screening when re-entering the United States and may be subject to quarantine. Ports of entry will also be limited to select airports allowed to receive flights from Europe.
Although the official transcript says the restrictions apply to trade as well as travel, a tweet from President Trump indicated “that trade will in no way be affected by the 30-day restrictions on travel from Europe. The restrictions stop people and 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
After-hours futures markets fell after the speech as traders absorbed the potential economic impact caused by the new policies. The S&P 500 and NASDAQ were both down 20% over the past week due to fears about the rapid spread of COVID-19 and its impact on economic activity.
Pledges Help to Small Business and Workers
President Trump also outlined economic assistant he expects the government to provide to workers and small businesses impacted by the disruption caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus. Although the plans will require Congressional approval, Trump outlined benefits for his proposals such as delayed due dates for tax payments, ready-access to government-backed small business loans and direct assistance for those suffering from COVID-19 and unable to work or their caretakers.
Read more at The White House newsroom.