Why Donald Trump’s Coronavirus Travel Ban Won’t Work

Twenty-six countries in Europe have been added to the US travel ban. We've answered your key questions.

In an address to the nation on Wednesday evening, US president Donald Trump announced that foreign nationals from 26 European countries were no longer welcome in the US, in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Trump made the announcement in an Oval Office address to the nation, 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.

“We made a lifesaving move with early action on China,” the US president said. “Now we must take the same action with Europe.”

But will this move actually stop coronavirus spreading? And how exactly is it going to work?

Which countries are banned?

Foreign nationals from the 26 European countries that make up the Schengen zone – where residents are allowed to move freely across the borders – are now banned from entering the US.

The full list consists of: 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.

UK and Ireland are exempt from the ban. Trump said on Thursday that the UK had been excluded from the travel ban because it was doing a “good job” on coronavirus.

When will the ban come into force?

The ban will come into force on Friday at 11.59pm ET (Saturday, 3.59am GMT) and is set to last for 30 days.

This is not a fixed period however – as the Covid-19 situation develops the travel ban could be extended or adapted.

I’m a US expat in Europe – can I return home?

Yes, as long as you have residency you will retain the right to enter the US. Most immediate family members of US citizens are also exempt.

The ban does not apply to crew members on board ships or planes, foreign government officials and their family, foreign nationals invited to the country to help tackle the virus, and foreign nationals who work for the US armed forces.

Visitors representing organisations such as Nato and the UN are also permitted entry, as well as individuals whose entry “is deemed in the national interest”.

Will it actually stop the spread?

With more than 1,200 cases of coronavirus already confirmed in the US there are significant questions around how effective a travel ban from the Europe will actually be.

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak said Trump’s decision to ban travel from Europe to the US will not have “a material effect” on the spread of coronavirus.

He said the US president’s move to suspend flights could have a knock-on effect on the UK economy.

Sunak told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme: “With regard to flight bans, we are always guided by the science as we make our decisions here.

“The advice we are getting is that there isn’t evidence that interventions like closing borders or travel bans are going to have a material effect on the spread of the infection.

He added: “That is why we have taken the decisions we have.”

Other experts and commentators have also poured scorn on the idea:

The European Union “disapproves” of Trump’s travel ban, European Council president Charles Michel and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said on Thursday morning.

A joint statement read: “The coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires co-operation rather than unilateral action.

“The European Union disapproves of the fact that the US decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation.

“The European Union is taking strong action to limit the spread of the virus.”


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