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Trump halted travel from Europe for 30 days. Officials now say it could be months

Tribune News Service logo Tribune News Service 4/28/2020 By Michael Wilner, McClatchy Washington Bureau
The empty place between terminals i spictured at the "Franz-Josef-Strauss" airport in Munich, southern Germany, on April 28, 2020, as public life across the world has been limited in measures to combat the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. © CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images North America/TNS The empty place between terminals i spictured at the "Franz-Josef-Strauss" airport in Munich, southern Germany, on April 28, 2020, as public life across the world has been limited in measures to combat the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

WASHINGTON — Restrictions on travel from Europe to the United States introduced in March by President Donald Trump could last for months, despite his initial statement they would remain in place for 30 days, three senior administration officials told McClatchy.

The protracted timeline has travel industry executives concerned that federal stimulus dollars meant to keep airlines, hotels and tourism businesses afloat during the coronavirus pandemic might fall short. Europe is the largest source of inbound travel for tourism and business to the United States after Canada and Mexico.

Trump administration officials noted the restrictions go both ways. European Union countries are heavily regulating travel within the continent, and French President Emmanuel Macron has floated the prospect of a freeze on international travel into Europe through September, given the pathogen’s late arrival in the United States and Africa – and the potential for a second wave of infections in Asia.

“It makes sense given the circumstances. I don’t think anyone expects them to ease anytime soon,” one Trump administration official said. The administration has no plans to lift the restrictions in the near future, a second official said.

Under the president’s order, U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents are allowed to travel back into the United States, but are required to undergo screening and self-quarantine upon return. Non-U.S. citizens who do not have residency are prevented from entry.

Trump announced the restrictions in a rare Oval Office address on March 11, as an outbreak of the novel coronavirus expanded throughout Europe and became apparent at home.

“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,” Trump said. “These restrictions will be adjusted subject to conditions on the ground.”

Despite that language, a proclamation from the president issued shortly after his speech did not include any references to a 30-day timeline. Instead it said the restrictions would “remain in effect until terminated by the president.” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is expected to advise Trump on that decision every two weeks.

While the initial presidential proclamation applied to 26 EU states, the administration added the United Kingdom and Ireland to the list within days.

The president has frequently referenced his moves to halt travel from China in January, and then from Europe weeks later, as decisive actions by his administration to limit the spread of the coronavirus, which has been found in every American state and killed over 50,000 people.

The restrictions do not apply to exports and imports from the European Union, the largest U.S. trading partner.

The coronavirus pandemic has devastated the travel and tourism industry, with domestic and international travel essentially ground to a halt.

Trade organizations have been in contact with the White House about the restrictions, and said they are currently focused on securing public health standards for Americans hoping to travel again within the United States.

“We have to be in a position to safely open up travel here at home first,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and policy at the U.S. Travel Association.

“Obviously the international traveler is critical, and from an economic standpoint, it’s a huge benefit to the United States — when they come to the U.S., they spend more money and they stay longer,” Barnes said. “But we can’t put ourselves in a position where we open things up too quickly and then have to close things down.”

EU and U.S. officials do not appear to be coordinating on a plan to eventually ease their restrictions. The State Department declined to comment, and the Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to requests for comment.


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