WASHINGTON, March 12 (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, according to a presidential proclamation.
- The targeted countries participate in Europe’s “Schengen Area,” which permits passport-free travel. The countries whose travelers are 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.
- While the restrictions cover much of Europe, 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. Additionally, the restrictions will not apply to spouses, parents and children under the age of 21 of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, among other exceptions outlined in the presidential proclamation.
- Flights from the affected European nations will be funneled to selected airports in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
- 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.
- 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. (Reporting by Ted Hesson, editing by Ross Colvin and Jonathan Oatis)