The U.S. on Friday announced that both the United Kingdom and Ireland have been added to the European travel ban that went into effect on Friday night, suspending travel into the United States for non-citizens who have been those countries within 14 days of entering the U.S.
The U.K. and Ireland will both join that ban list starting at midnight on Monday.
The news temporarily bans travel from Europe in the U.S. for all non-citizens. American citizens will still be allowed to fly, though the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is asking anyone coming from an area with “widespread, ongoing community spread,” to practice social distancing once back on U.S. soil, which includes a 14-day period of not going to work or school or taking public transportation. It also comes at the same time that cruise lines take a voluntary, 30-day suspension of all sailings.
U.S. Travel Association Roger Dow said in a statement reacting to the news that "The public's health and safety is priority No. 1, and we hope the aggressive steps taken by the federal government succeed in putting the moment of greatest concern behind us," though that "hearing of the need to further expand travel restrictions—especially the inclusion of our No. 1 overseas source market, the UK—is obviously not the development the U.S. travel industry was hoping for.
"Aggressive steps will also be needed to address the health of the U.S. economy, the small businesses that make up 83% of all U.S. travel employers, and the 15.8 million travel-supported jobs that are going to feel a catastrophic impact from coronavirus."
As of Sunday, March 15, the United States has reported 3,621 cases of coronavirus (COVID-19), the eighth most worldwide behind China (80,849), Italy (24,747), Iran (13,938), South Korea (8,162), Spain (7,843), Germany (5,813), and France (5,423). White House officials on Sunday said they expect to see a "spike" in those numbers as more testing centers are installed across the U.S.
Coronavirus cases worldwide have now reached 169,217 according to Worldometers, which is also registering 76,615 recoveries and 6,492 deaths.
High wait times at screening airports
U.S. travelers coming in from high-risk areas, including Europe, are being funneled to one of 13 different airports around the countries “out of an abundance of caution,” Vice President Pence said on Sunday.
According to Chad Wolf, acting Secretary of Homeland Security, more than 40,000 passengers were screened at those airports on Saturday, causing a bottleneck of incoming travelers at some of those airports, including Chicago O’Hare where wait times for some totaled hours.
Wolf told reporters on Sunday that airport infrastructure, including DHS and CBP officers, is dealing with an “enormous challenge” and that “the lines we saw…are unacceptable.”
According to Wolf, wait times were better on Sunday at all those airports including O’Hare, where travelers waited, on average, 30 minutes to be processed.
At the same time, the CDC is providing more guidelines for domestic travel within the United States on its website, writing that even though the CDC generally does not issues advisories for travel within the United States, the spread of COVID-19 has changed things.
“Crowded travel settings, like airports, may increase your risk of exposure to COVID-19, if there are other travelers with COVID-19. There are several things you should consider when deciding whether it is safe for you to travel.”
Those considerations include whether or not COVID-19 is spreading in an area you are traveling to; whether you will be in close quarters during travel; whether you or your companions are at high risk of severe illness with COVID-19; whether people you live with at home are elderly or have a chronic health condition; and whether or not it is spreading where you live.
“Depending on your unique circumstances, you may choose to delay or cancel your plans. If you do decide to travel, be sure to practice precautions to prevent getting and spreading COVID-19,” the CDC writes.
At the Friday news conference, neither President Trump or Vice President Pence said that they would be banning domestic travel, but did say that a "broad range" of measures are under consideration.
Wolf also said on Sunday that DHS has yet to institute a domestic air travel ban, but that "we continue to look at all [possibilities]"and that it will "adjust as the medical professionals at CDC address the situation."