American travelers in Europe are scrambling to get back to the U.S. after President Trump announced a 30-day travel ban from European countries in an attempt to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
“Bleary-eyed and stressed, travellers scrambled at European airports to board flights to the United States on Thursday after U.S. President Donald Trump announced sweeping travel restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus,” Reuters reported out of Madrid on Thursday.
The mad dash to get back to the states, the news agency explains, follows Trump’s announcement on new travel restrictions Wednesday that “disrupted the travel plans of tens of thousands of people and hit airlines already reeling from the coronavirus outbreak.”
“The European Union failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel from China and other hotspots,” Trump said in a televised address Wednesday night. “As a result, a large number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travelers from Europe.”
“After consulting with our top government health professionals, I have decided to take several strong but necessary actions to protect the health and wellbeing of all Americans,” he continued. “To keep new cases from entering our shores, 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 at midnight.”
“These restrictions will be adjusted subject to conditions on the ground,” Trump added. “There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings, and these prohibitions [exemptions] will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval. These restrictions will also not apply to the United Kingdom.”
As Reuters details, the ban applies to 26 European countries and excludes Britain and Ireland. And, as Trump noted, American citizens who have undergone appropriate screenings will be allowed to travel back to the U.S.
The announcement prompted chaos, as American travelers in Europe told Reuters. “It caused a mass panic,” said a U.S. student who was scrambling to book a flight from Madrid back to the U.S. rather than heading to France as she’d planned. “We are lucky to be able to leave Europe,” a Miami resident, who was one of several who had just booked flights back, told Reuters.
“It’s going to be a big mess,” a Delta crew member told the news agency. “We were not expecting something like that. We don’t have all the details to know what it means for us and for the company.”
Another American bound for the U.S. expressed frustration about the lack of clarity about Trump’s initial statement on the ban from Europe, which appeared to suggest that trade was going to be shut down as well. “It wasn’t clear what Trump meant,” he said. “It was a poorly planned, poorly worded statement.”
Trump quickly clarified the point in a tweet following his televised statement Wednesday. “Hoping to get the payroll tax cut approved by both Republicans and Democrats,” Trump wrote, “and please remember, very important for all countries [and] businesses to know that trade will in no way be affected by the 30-day restriction on travel from Europe. The restriction stops people not goods.”
On Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security released a statement providing details about the European travel restrictions and specifying that the restrictions do not apply to “legal permanent residents, (generally) immediate family members of U.S. citizens, and other individuals who are identified in the proclamation”:
Today President Donald J. Trump signed a Presidential Proclamation, which suspends the entry of most foreign nationals who have been in certain European countries at any point during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the United States. These countries, known as the Schengen Area, 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. This does not apply to legal permanent residents, (generally) immediate family members of U.S. citizens, and other individuals who are identified in the proclamation.
In his address, Trump also announced actions his administration is taking to provide economic relief for the country.