The UK and Ireland have been excluded from a ban on travel between the United States and Europe for 30 days starting on Friday, US President Donald Trump has announced as he seeks to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
Trump made the dramatic announcement in an Oval Office address to the nation on Wednesday, blaming the European Union for not acting quickly enough to address the outbreak of the virus and saying US clusters were “seeded” by European travellers.
The president said the US would monitor the situation to determine if travel could be reopened earlier.
“We made a lifesaving move with early action on China,” Trump said. “Now we must take the same action with Europe.”
However, questions were quickly raised over precisely what the president was ordering.
Homeland Security officials later clarified the new travel restrictions would only apply to most foreign nationals who had been in the ‘Schengen Area’ at any point for 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the US. The area includes Italy, German, Greece, Austria, Belgium and others. The ban does not apply to US citizens or their immediate family members, and it does not apply to US legal permanent residents.
Trump also later tweeted that the ban did not include goods, only people.
A list of 26 affected countries published on the US Homeland Security website.
The move comes as Boris Johnson is expected to announce on Thursday that the UK is moving to the ‘delay’ phase of tackling coronavirus as the government ramps up efforts to bring the disease under control.
Eight people with Covid-19 are confirmed to have died in the UK, while the total number of positive cases has risen to 460.
Trump’s action came as the number of confirmed cases of the infection topped 1,000 in the US and the World Health Organisation declared the global crisis was now a pandemic.
In his address, the president said “we are marshalling the full power” of the government and private sector to protect the American people.
He also announced the US would defer tax payments due to the government for some impacted filers for three months amid measures to lessen the financial impact of virus.
Trump had been reportedly considering new travel advisories, a national disaster declaration and a delay in the tax filing deadline.
Congress, for its part, unveiled a multi-billion dollar aid package that was expected to be voted on by the House as soon as Thursday.
After days of playing down the threat, Trump changed gears with his Oval Office address.
The mounting effort to contain the virus and financial fall-out intensified on a gruelling day.
Communities cancelled public events nationwide, universities moved to cancel in-person classes, and families grappled with the impact of disruptions to public schools.