United States closes borders to travellers from Schengen area
The United States will introduce wide-ranging new restrictions on travellers from Europe as the country battles the coronavirus outbreak.
In a televised address earlier, president Donald Trump said the move was “strong but necessary”.
Travellers from the 26 countries in the Schengen border-free travel zone will be barred from entering the United States for 30 days from tomorrow.
This includes arrivals from Austria, Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands and Portugal, among others.
“To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe,” Trump said from the Oval Office on Wednesday evening.
“The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight,” he added.
A presidential proclamation also specified the ban would apply to anyone who had been in the Schengen area in the 14 days before their arrival in the United States.
There are 1,135 confirmed cases of the virus across the US, with 38 deaths so far.
The travel order does not apply to US citizens.
The United Kingdom and Ireland, which are outside the travel-free zone, will also be unaffected.
Trump added the European Union had “failed to take the same precautions” as the United States in fighting the virus.
As of Wednesday, the number of cases of the coronavirus in the Schengen area totalled 17,442, with 711 deaths.
According to health officials, the area also shows high continuous growth in infection rates.
The United States president initially said the suspension would also “apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo” coming from Europe into the country.
He later backtracked, tweeting to say that trade would “in no way be affected”.
In response to the ban, the European Commission issued a scathing statement.
“The coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action,” it said.
“The European Union disapproves of the fact that the United States decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation.”
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