WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will suspend travel from certain European countries for 30 days beginning at midnight on Friday as part of an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
- The restrictions cover people who have been in 26 European countries at any point during a 14-day period before their scheduled arrival in the United States.
- The targeted countries participate in Europe’s “Schengen Area,” which permits passport-free travel. The countries subject to the new restrictions are 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.
- Travelers from the United Kingdom, Ireland and more than a dozen Eastern and Southeastern Europe nations will exempted. Those countries do not participate in the Schengen Area’s passport-free travel.
- The restrictions will not apply to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, or to spouses, parents and children under the age of 21 of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, among other exceptions.
- Flights from the affected European nations will be funneled to 13 airports in the United States that serve 90 percent of existing European flights, according to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official. Boston Logan International Airport and Miami International Airport will be added to a list of 11 airports that have been receiving incoming flights from China and Iran since early February.
- At the same time, U.S. airports are cutting flights. Delta Air Lines said Friday it plans to suspend all flights to and from continental Europe for 30 days - a suspension that could start as early as Sunday.
- The United States is preparing for thousands of new coronavirus cases and will ask Americans returning from the affected European countries to go into self-quarantine for 14 days as part of the effort to contain the outbreak, Vice President Mike Pence said on Thursday.
- Travelers coming from the targeted European countries will be subjected to enhanced entry screening upon arrival in the United States, DHS said in a statement on Friday. During that screening, they will be asked about their medical history, current condition, and contact information, which will be supplied to local health authorities, according to DHS. They will be given written guidance about COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, and told to self-quarantine at home, the agency said.
- President Donald Trump’s proclamation on Wednesday said the Schengen countries had the highest rate of coronavirus infection outside of China, and that “the free flow of people between the Schengen Area countries makes the task of managing the spread of the virus difficult.”
- A key question is - What is to stop people from the Schengen region from traveling to the United States via Britain? Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, said while Britain maintains entry and exit records for all travelers, it does not regularly share that information with the United States. But she said it can do so on a case-by-case basis upon request.
Editing by Daniel Wallis