WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump has suspended most travel from Europe to the United States for 30 days as governments across the globe scramble to stem the spread of the global coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking from the Oval Office in the White House on March 11, Trump said the travel suspension will begin on March 13 and said the restrictions will not apply to screened U.S. citizens and to Britain.
Trump did not specify the countries included in the restrictions, saying only that “all travel from Europe" was suspended.
However, the proclamation released later by the White House says it applies to the 26 European countries in what is known as the Schengen Area -- indicating that other European countries are not included.
Trump said in the proclamation that the United States will "restrict and suspend the entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the Schengen Area during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States."
Also, along with U.S. citizens, it does not apply to legal permanent residents of the United States or their families who are returning from Europe. It also does not pertain to the transport of trade goods.
The European Union "disapproves of the fact" that the U.S. decision "was taken unilaterally and without consultation," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel said in a joint statement.
The coronavirus is a global crisis that requires "cooperation rather than unilateral action," they said, insisting that the 27-member bloc "is taking strong action to limit the spread of the virus."
"To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days. The new rules will go into effect Friday [March 13] at midnight," Trump said.
Trump claimed that Europe has had more cases of the COVID-19 virus because governments there failed to take steps that he said Washington has taken, including the halting of travel from China, where the outbreak began.
“We made a lifesaving move with early action on China. Now, we must take the same action with Europe,” he said.
Italy has been the hardest-hit country in Europe and has taken dramatic measures to fight the outbreak.
The government there ordered all stores except for pharmacies and food shops to close after the coronavirus has killed 827 in the country in the past two weeks.
Separately, the U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory recommending that Americans reconsider travel abroad due to the global impact of the outbreak and various countries' response to it.
The alert advised that “U.S. citizens to reconsider travel abroad due to the global impact of COVID-19. Many areas throughout the world are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and taking action that may limit traveler mobility, including quarantines and border restrictions."
Meanwhile, U.S. states and local communities are taking drastic steps to fight the intensifying crisis, with communities canceling public gatherings and major sporting events, closing schools, and universities switching to online classes.
Also on March 11, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a state of emergency in the national capital as the number of cases there reached 10.
The main basketball league in North America -- the National Basketball Association (NBA) -- announced late on March 11 that it was suspending the current season until further notice, AP reported.
Infections in the United States have surpassed 1,200, with 37 reported deaths. Most of the fatalities are linked to a nursing home in the city of Seattle, Washington.
Worldwide, more than 118,000 people have been infected and nearly 4,300 people have died, most of them in China.
The World Health Organization on March 11 declared coronavirus a pandemic after weeks of monitoring its global spread.