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Trump’s Decision to Ban Non-Citizen Travel from Europe Takes E.U. Leaders By Surprise

— March 12, 2020

E.U. leaders say they weren’t given advance notice of the president’s travel ban.

In a last-ditch effort to stop the spread of coronavirus, President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that the United States will restrict non-citizen travel from more than two dozen European countries.

The flash announcement, which has already garnered extensive criticism, was initially framed as a suspension of “all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days.” But within minutes of Trump’s statement, the administration offered additional clarification: the blockade will only affect foreign travelers. U.S. citizens who plan to return home in the coming weeks will still be allowed back into the country, provided they pass a mandatory medical screening. Anyone suspected of having coronavirus may be quarantined for up to two weeks.

Trump’s statement spoked additional controversy, with the president saying the proclamation would apply not just to travelers but “the tremendous amount of trade and cargo” across the Atlantic. Shortly afterward and with stocks beginning to crash, Trump was forced to take to Twitter, saying the ban would apply to “people not goods.”

Airplane cabin. Image via Wikimedia Commons/user:Fastily. (CCA-BY-4.0).

Altogether, the president said he was taking drastic measures to ensure the disease can’t spread as quickly as it has in Europe.

“We have seen dramatically fewer cases of the virus in the United States than are now present in Europe,” Trump said Wednesday. “The European Union failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel from China and other hot spots. As a result, a huge number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travelers from Europe.”

As reported earlier this week, the U.S. response has, in fact, been cited as inadequate. While the Center for Disease Control shipped out about 1 million coronavirus test kits last week—and is preparing to send out another million in the coming week—there was no centralized, federal-led initiative to combat the disease.

The travel ban, though, does not encompass the entirety of Europe: CNN notes that it primarily affects nations within the European Union’s border-free Schengen area.

“We are at a critical time in the fight against the virus,” Trump said. “We made a life-saving move with early action on China. Now we must take the same action with Europe. We will not delay. I will never hesitate to take any necessary steps to protect the lives, health and safety of the American people. I will always put the well-being of America first.”

Not surprisingly, the travel ban has been extensively criticized by European leaders and former U.S. diplomats, many of whom say Europe was not given advance notice.


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