President Donald Trump announced a 30-day ban on travel from continental Europe Wednesday as part of the U.S. government's coronavirus pandemic response.
Speaking from the Oval Office, Trump said that the federal government would halt all travel from Europe beginning on Friday. Americans, visitors from the U.K., and passengers who had undergone special screening would still be allowed to enter the country.
"These restrictions will be adjusted subject to conditions on the ground," said Trump. "There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings, and these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but other things as we get approval."
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf clarified that Trump's order would only apply to foreign citizens.
The action @POTUS is taking to deny entry to foreign nationals who have been in coronavirus-affected areas will keep Americans safe & save lives. These are not easy decisions but they are required. I will issue guidance within 48 hours outlining details.https://t.co/KYXE7JKswC pic.twitter.com/zgi6r5FoZq
— Acting Secretary Chad Wolf (@DHS_Wolf) March 12, 2020
The president's remarks suggested that trade with Europe might halt as well, although his meaning was not entirely clear. The White House later clarified that the ban would not impact trade and goods, according to Bloomberg News.
Trump also faulted Europe for failing to limit travel from China and bragged that he had not made the same mistake (though of course, the coronavirus still eventually made its way from China to U.S. shores).
"I will never hesitate to take any necessary steps to protect the lives, health, and safety of American people," said Trump.
This extreme measure on the part of the president is a sign that his administration is no longer treating the coronavirus pandemic like a hoax cooked up by the mainstream media to hurt his re-election odds. But it's worth wondering whether a European travel ban—imposed unilaterally by the executive branch—is actually a prudent measure at this point, given that there is already a coronavirus outbreak within U.S. borders. And the U.K., from which travel is not restricted, has hundreds of cases as well.
In other coronavirus news, actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson have reportedly contracted the disease, and the NBA has suspended its season indefinitely. Government officials and organizers are canceling conferences, parades, concerts, and other mass gatherings of people. Practicing social distancing—avoiding large crowds—remains the best method for all people to help slow the spread of the disease and flatten the curve.
Update: Additional information about the travel ban's impact on trade and goods was added to this article.