KEY POINTS

  • Trump bans all travel between U.S. and Europe, starting Friday night
  • Restrictions will apply to all trade and cargo
  • UK is exempt from the sweeing measure

In an extraordinary and sweeping measure to combat the spread of the coronavirus that has infected more than 1,200 people in the U.S. so far, President Donald Trump suspended all travel between the United States and Europe, except the UK, for the next 30 days effective midnight Friday. 

The restrictions, which will also affect trade and cargo and come into effect Friday night,  come as medical experts warned the virus could infect up to 150 million Americans, about half the total U.S. population. 

The Department of Homeland Security later explained the ban more clearly in a statement:

"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."

More than 125,000 people across the globe have been infected so far by COVID-19, with the death toll topping 4,600. The virus started in China but, even as containment measures verging on the draconian have helped bring the infection under control in the Asian country, the global center of the infection has shifted to Europe.

Italy now has the second highest highest death toll from COVID-19, behind China, and the entire country is in lockdown as the government tries to prevent the virus' spread. But many people have left the country as the government botched up the implementation of travel restrictions, raising fears that the infection will spread across Europe. Other countries in Europe, like Germany, France and  Spain, have already reported thousands of infections each. 

The U.K. has reported more than 140 infections and 8 deaths from the novel coronavirus.

Data from the John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center shows that the coronavirus has affected more than 1,200 people in the U.S. and killed 32 so far.

"We will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days," Trump said in a televised message from the Oval Office. "The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight."

The president called the measures "strong but necessary." He also said Trump certain Americans "who have undergone appropriate screenings" will get certain exemptions from the sweeing ban.

“We are at a critical time in the fight against the virus,” Trump said in his second Oval Office address since taking office.

US President Donald Trump said he will explain his response to the coronavirus in a national address US President Donald Trump said he will explain his response to the coronavirus in a national address Photo: AFP / Brendan Smialowski