President Trump announced a 30-day ban on travel from European countries to the United States, beginning on Friday at midnight, in a bid “to keep new cases” of coronavirus “from entering our shores.” The restrictions, he said late Wednesday, do not apply to travelers from the United Kingdom.
Homeland Security officials said the travel restrictions would only apply to foreign nationals, not American citizens or legal permanent residents, who have been in the Schengen region, 26 countries in Europe with open borders agreements, in the last 14 days.
After Trump’s announcement, the State Department issued an advisory informing U.S. citizens to “reconsider travel abroad” as a result of outbreaks around the globe.
Trump also announced economic measures that he said would help the country overcome “temporary economic disruptions” caused by the disease.
The president’s primetime remarks Wednesday cap a concerted effort by the White House to calm a public made jittery by the rapid global spread of the disease and the concomitant economic turmoil. Indeed, globally, the number of cases of coronavirus has exceeded 125,000, with more than 1,000 of those reported in the United States, where the outbreak is expected to get worse.
Trump’s address followed a Wednesday announcement by the World Health Organization, which classified the outbreak a pandemic. In Washington, lawmakers scrambled to find ways to contain the economic fallout of the fast-spreading virus.
Trump suspends all travel from Europe for 30 days
“This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history,” Trump said Wednesday night.
“I am confident that by counting and continuing to take these tough measures, we will significantly reduce the threat to our citizens and we will ultimately and expeditiously defeat this virus,” he added.
Trump explained the travel restrictions will be adjusted “subject to conditions on the ground.”
“The president, counter to nearly all expert opinion, continues to treat the smaller number of known cases here (due to inadequate testing) as if it means we actually have a small number of cases and need to focus on keeping cases out,” said Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at Harvard University. “Now we should be racing to mitigate spread in the U.S., not wasting resources on keeping cases out.”
Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health and Security, was equally as dubious.
“We have limited resources and need to stay focused on liming domestic spread,” Nuzzo said, cautioning that if the restrictions will require additional screening and monitoring of foreign nationals entering the U.S. then “this will undoubtedly divert resources from protecting vulnerable populations, like the elderly and individuals with underlying health issues.”
Lawrence Gostin, a global health law professor at Georgetown University, put his assessment more bluntly: “It may have political value but [it] has zero public health value.”
Gostin continued: “Most of Europe has the same or fewer cases than the U.S. Restricting travel certainly won’t make America safer.”
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Author: Allan Bangirana
Allan Bangirana has a taste for all kinds of topics and usually writes about tech, entertainment, sports and community projects that make a difference in society.