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Trump suspends travel from Europe to US amid coronavirus breakout, drawing EU criticism

No travelers will be allowed to enter the US from most of Europe for 30 days, the president says. EU officials criticized Trump for taking action "unilaterally and without consultation."

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President Donald Trump announces restrictions on travel from continental Europe.

Doug Mills -- pool photo/Getty Images
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced new travel restrictions that prohibit travel from Europe to the US in an effort designed to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The temporary restrictions, which go into effect at midnight on Friday, don't apply to travel from the UK or Ireland. They earned criticism from the European Union's governing body.

"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 in a rare televised address from the Oval Office. "There will be exemptions for Americans who have gone through appropriate screenings. These restrictions will not apply to the United Kingdom."

Although he suggested during the address that the ban would apply to cargo, he backtracked on that in a tweet after the address. Trump also suggested that nursing homes stop all nonessential visits and announced federally backed small-business loans, indicating that he will direct the Small Business Administration to provide low-interest loans to affected businesses.

Trump's address came after the World Health Organization earlier Wednesday officially declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. The WHO had been reluctant to call the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, in an attempt to prevent panic, and suggested containment measures were helping control the spread, but experts suggested the conditions were met in late February as case numbers in Italy, South Korea and Iran began to rapidly climb.

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The acting chief of the Department of Homeland Security, Chad F. Wolf,  said in a statement that Trump's new travel restrictions "will will be disruptive to some travelers," they are necessary to protect Americans "from further exposure to the potentially deadly coronavirus."

The new strain of coronavirus, which can develop into a respiratory illness known as COVID-19, has infected more than 120,000 people and caused more than 4,700 deaths globally. The US has more than 1,300 confirmed cases.

Trump accused the EU of not taking appropriate actions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus from China.

"The European Union failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel from China and other hot spots," Trump said in his address Wednesday. "As a result a large number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travel."

The ban only applies to the 26 countries within the EU's Shengen free-travel zone. Trump didn't explain why his administration chose to exempt the UK, which has reported six coronavirus deaths and 373 cases, including the health minister, or Ireland, which has reported 43 cases.

The European Commission, the EU's governing body, criticized Trump's move in a statement Thursday, saying it's "taking strong action to limit the spread of the virus."

"The coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action," it said. "The European Union disapproves of the fact that the U.S. decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation."

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In his address, Trump also reminded Americans to follow commonsense measures to ensure their health.

"For all Americans, it is essential that everyone take extra precautions and practice good hygiene," he said.

Earlier Wednesday, Trump tweeted that he's "fully prepared to use the full power of the Federal Government to deal with our current challenge of the CoronaVirus!".

Also Wednesday, the White House gathered representatives from major tech companies for a teleconference on coordinating their response to the coronavirus outbreak. Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter participated.

Tech companies have already been reacting to the outbreak by canceling conferences, taking steps to combat misinformation on their platforms and instructing employees to work from home.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.