US President Donald Trump announced Wednesday evening that he would ban foreign travelers from Europe for the next 30 days amid the growing coronavirus outbreak.
The restrictions apply only to foreign nationals, and not U.S. citizens, green card holders or the families of U.S. citizens. The White House further specified that the ban applied to foreign nationals who have visited 26 countries in Europe.
Ireland and the U.K. are exempt, although it is not clear why because the virus is also present in Britain. In fact, Bloomberg News reports that U.K. authorities have abandoned efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus there and will focus on delaying the worst of the outbreak, as officials said as many as 10,000 Britons may be infected.
The travel ban does not apply to European trade or goods, though Trump suggested that that was the case during his prime-time address. The White House scrambled to fix his misstatement, clarifying that the restriction applied only to people.
"The European Union failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel from China and other hot spots," Trump said Wednesday night, speaking from the Oval Office. "As a result, a large number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travelers from Europe."
No mention was made of the Trump administration's abject failure in providing sufficient coronavirus testing nor did Trump mention social distancing in local communities - the top priority of public health professionals.
In the most scripted of presidential settings, a prime time address to the nation, President Trump decided to ad-lib — and his errors triggered a market meltdown, panicked travelers overseas and crystallized just how dangerously he has fumbled his management of the coronavirus.
Stock markets plunge following Trump remarks
On both sides of the Atlantic on Thursday, the negative consequences of President Trump’s decision to ban most travel from Europe began to be felt economically, politically and socially.
Stock markets around the world, already beaten down badly, plunged by between 7% - 12%.
European Union leaders issued a withering denunciation of Trump's decision to bar Europeans from traveling to the US amid the coronavirus pandemic, as Trump admitted he hadn't told the Europeans what was coming.
"We get along very well with European leaders, but we had to make a decision and I didn't want to take time and, you know, it takes a long time make the individual calls and we are calling and we had spoken to some of them prior to (the announcement)," Trump told reporters Thursday.
Communicating with the European Union -- which consists of 27 members, is headquartered in Brussels and has an embassy here -- would not require calls to individual members. Indeed, the EU response to Trump came from its central leaders.
"The coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action," the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement.