With more than 1200 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in the US, the country’s president, Donald Trump, today announced far-reaching restrictions. Chief among them: a ban an all inbound flights from Europe for a month, arguably the most stringent peacetime restriction on travel in US history.
He specified that the ban would not include the United Kingdom.
Though Trump said the ban would apply to all passengers and “the tremendous amount of trade and cargo,” the White House later clarified that goods and cargo would be exempt, and that the ban did not apply to US citizens, permanent residents, and their families, among other travelers. It is not yet clear how the order will be implemented, though it is due to begin Friday, March 13, at midnight.
Speaking from the Oval Office in a televised presidential address, Trump described these “strong but necessary” actions to keep the “foreign virus” at bay. He also indicated that health insurance companies had agreed to waive copayments and extend coverage for Covid-19 treatment.
To minimize the impact, he called for the Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide $50 billion in loans to affected companies, while tax payments are to be deferred to add $200 billion in liquidity to the economy. “This is not a financial crisis,” he said. “This is just a temporary moment in time that we will overcome as a nation and a world.”
The ban, set provisionally for 30 days, is expected to have significant economic effects on the US economy, as well as on the already-suffering airline industry worldwide. Immediately following the announcement, US stock futures fell an average of about 1.4%, across the Dow, S&P 500, and Nasdaq.
Early response to the restrictions was mixed: Writing on Twitter, Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, criticized the measures: “Travel bans are like locking the doors after the killer has already entered the house. Economic support treats the symptoms not the disease.”
Others questioned the decision to exclude the UK from the ban. The country now has more than 400 cases of the virus, far eclipsing many of its European neighbors.
An earlier version of this story indicated the travel ban would include cargo and all passengers, as Trump remarked in his speech. The White House later clarified the ban would not include cargo and that some passengers would be exempt.