President Donald Trump’s decision to restrict travel to the United States from several European countries due to the novel coronavirus is likely to bring about chaos for travelers across the world.
The announcement, which was made on Wednesday, has understandably left tourists with impending travel to the US booked, as well as American citizens, with many concerns.
Trump’s decision came as the number of confirmed cases in the US rose to over 1,200, while the global total increased to more than 118,000, with a death toll of over 4,000.
“While these new travel restrictions will be disruptive to some travelers, this decisive action is needed to protect the American public from further exposure to the potentially deadly coronavirus,” Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad F. Wolf said in a statement after the ban was revealed.
Here’s everything you need to know about the US coronavirus travel ban for Europe:
Who does the ban apply to?
The travel restrictions apply to foreign nationals who have visited countries in the Schengen zone — an area of open-border travel within Europe — during the past 14 days.
These include: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
The UK and Ireland are both omitted from the restrictions.
When does it start?
The new rules will come into effect on Friday, March 13 at midnight. However, it’s unclear what time zone this refers to, and whether the cut off time refers to the departure of US-bound flights, or their arrival. In other words, whether airplanes still scheduled to be in the air when the designated midnight deadline passes will be able to land.
I’m an American on vacation in Europe. Will I be able to get back home?
Yes, in theory. The Department of Homeland Security has clarified that the ban does not apply to American citizens, so US travelers will be allowed to return, provided they “have undergone appropriate screenings” beforehand.
However, Americans will be redirected to a limited number of airports that have medical screenings in place, according to officials.
Those with symptoms will need to get medical attention and others, while others will be required to undergo a 14-day self-quarantine.
The exemptions pertain to US legal permanent residents, citizens and some of their family members, according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security.
At present, there’s no indication of whether there will be any extra flights for US citizens wanting to return.
Airlines are still scrambling to implement the restrictions and decipher what the next step will be, and there are currently no official guidelines.
What happens if I re-route through an unaffected airport?
Regardless of which airport you travel through, if you’re a foreign national who has visited any of the aforementioned countries during the last two weeks, you are not permitted to travel to the US under the current restrictions.
How long does the ban last?
The restrictions have been put in place for 30 days. However, no fixed expiration has been given at present, so it’s possible this could be extended.
Will airlines start canceling flights?
Thousands of flights have been canceled in the past few weeks as a result of a slowing demand due to the coronavirus outbreak.
It’s inevitable this latest development will bring about even more cancellations, as it’s likely airlines will be unable to fly from affected European destinations to many US airports.
“At this point, all I can say is that we will comply with the administration’s announcement,” United Airlines spokesman Frank Benenati told CNN.
I have a flight booked to the US. Can I get a refund on my trip?
Many airlines are already offering refunds or waiving change fees on bookings between now and the end of April, including United, American, and Delta, while some major hotel chains are waiving cancellation fees.
However, there are no guarantees when it comes to recouping all the costs associated with trips canceled due to coronavirus.
At present, an outbreak of a virus is not covered under most standard trip cancellation insurance policies, according to TravelInsurance.com.
“For those who purchased a Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) optional upgrade, however, some measure of trip cancellation protection may be available,” according to Stan Sandberg, co-founder of TravelInsurance.com.
Those holding existing policies are advised to contact their providers to see if their plans offer any coverage.
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