(White House photo)

COVID-19: Administration Restricts Travel of Foreign Nationals Coming from Europe

President Trump announced a ban on travel from Europe into the United States during a primetime address from the Oval Office on steps the administration is taking toward combating the coronavirus pandemic.

Declaring that since “a large number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travelers from Europe,” Trump said that the United States “will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days.”

“The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight. These restrictions will be adjusted subject to conditions on the ground,” Trump said. “There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings, and these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo but various other things as we get approval. Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing.”

The White House later clarified that the flow of trade and cargo would not be affected by the policy. And the travel restrictions don’t apply to the United Kingdom, which hit 460 cases today out of 27,476 people tested. Health minister Nadine Dorries is among those who have tested positive for the virus, along with one of her staffers.

“At the same time, we are monitoring the situation in China and the South Korea, and as their situation improves, we will reevaluate the restrictions and warnings that are currently in place for a possible early opening,” Trump added.

The Department of Homeland Security clarified that the restriction applies to “most foreign nationals who have been in certain European countries at any point during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the United States.” Those countries include Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Many cases in the U.S. have been among American citizens who traveled to hard-hit regions such as Italy.

The travel restrictions exclude U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their immediate families, spouses, children and some parents or siblings of U.S. citizens or LPRs, non-citizens “traveling at the invitation of the United States Government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus,” air or sea crews, foreign government official visa holders, any non-citizen “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, through the CDC Director or his designee,” any non-citizen “whose entry would further important United States law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees, based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee; whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees.”

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said in a statement that the restrictions “will keep Americans safe and save American lives.”

“While these new travel restrictions will be disruptive to some travelers, this decisive action is needed to protect the American public from further exposure to the potentially deadly coronavirus,” Wolf said.

In the next 48 hours, he added, “in the interest of public health, I intend to issue a supplemental Notice of Arrivals Restriction requiring U.S. passengers that have been in the Schengen Area to travel through select airports where the U.S. Government has implemented enhanced screening procedures.”

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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