In an address made Wednesday night from the Oval Office, President Donald Trump announced that due to COVID-19 (coronavirus), “we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days. The new rules will go into effect Friday (March 13) at midnight … There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings.”
Following the address, the Department of Homeland Security clarified that the travel restrictions will not apply to all U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents and some of their immediate family members. The ban, rather, only applies to foreign nationals. Additionally, the countries included are those that make up the Schengen Area (countries that have officially abolished all passport and all other types of border control at their mutual borders). Members 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. Notable omissions from this group include the U.K. and Ireland.
Vice President Mike Pence said on CNN Thursday morning that Americans coming home will be funneled through 13 different airports where screenings will take place. Additionally, Americans and legal permanent residents will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.
In its response to the decision, the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) said that it is working with policy makers in both the Trump Administration and Congress “to obtain a variety of relief options to help advisors, and the travel industry as a whole, weather this storm. We will, of course, keep ASTA members fully apprised of the latest developments in this rapidly evolving situation.”
The European Travel Commission (ETC), the European Tourism Association (ETOA), United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) and the European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Associations (ECTAA) called for bilateral talks to review and cancel the travel suspension, saying that the policy is “not evidence-based.”
“The coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any destination and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action,” said ETC CEO Eduardo Santander. “Planes fly from A to B and B to A. The European tourism sector disapproves [of] this unilateral travel ban without any consultation, which will equally affect travel and tourism businesses and citizens at both sides of the Atlantic.”
“In taking aggressive steps to protect the public against coronavirus, the U.S. government should now consider equally aggressive steps to protect America's workforce and employers,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow in a statement responding to the decision. “The public's health is the top concern, but now the policy conversation must address the health of the economy.”
"Temporarily shutting off travel from Europe is going to exacerbate the already-heavy impact of coronavirus on the travel industry and the 15.7 million Americans whose jobs depend on travel,” Dow said. “We have and will continue to engage Congress and the administration on policy steps that are necessary to ensure that travel employers—83 percent of which are small businesses—can keep the lights on for their employees.”
The U.S. Travel Association also noted 850,000 international visitors flying from Europe (excluding the U.K.) entered the United States in March 2019, accounting for approximately 29 percent of total overseas arrivals to the U.S. and approximately $3.4 billion in spending.
"While USTOA understands and appreciates the urgency behind trying to contain the spread of COVID-19 within the United States, we were surprised and discouraged by the Administration’s announcement of the 30-day travel ban with Europe," said Terry Dale, president and CEO of the USTOA. "It adds more confusion and uncertainty to our already beleaguered industry."
“We commend President Trump for continuing to take decisive action to protect the health and well-being of the American people,” said Nicholas E. Calio, president and CEO of airline trade group Airlines for America (A4A). “For U.S. airlines, the safety of our passengers, crew and cargo is – and always will be – our top priority.”
“The unforeseen outbreak of the coronavirus has directly impacted the U.S. airline industry, which is critical to the U.S. and global economies,” Calio said. “This action will hit U.S. airlines, their employees, travelers and the shipping public extremely hard. However, we respect the need to take this unprecedented action and appreciate the Administration’s commitment to facilitate travel and trade.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared coronavirus to be a global pandemic. At the same time, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the epicenter of the outbreak has shifted from China to Europe, hence the crackdown on travel from the continent.