US President Donald Trump has announced sweeping travel restrictions on 26 European countries in a bid to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
The ban applies to travellers from countries which are members of the Schengen border-free travel area.
The UK, Ireland and other non-Schengen countries are unaffected. US citizens are also exempt.
The EU condemned the measures, which it said were taken “unilaterally and without consultation”.
The new rules go into effect on Friday at midnight EDT and mark a major escalation from the US president, who has been accused of inaction over coronavirus.
There are 1,135 confirmed cases of the virus across the US, with 38 deaths so far.
Read more: Coronavirus: Health minister tests positive
In other developments:
- Chinese health authorities have said that the peak of the outbreak in China is over. The virus first emerged in the city of Wuhan
- The worst-hit country outside of China, Italy, imposed further restrictions, closing nearly all shops, bars, hairdressers, restaurants and cafes until 25 March
- In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel, warned that up to 70% of the country’s population – some 58 million people – could contract the coronavirus
- India suspended most visas for foreigners until 15 April
- The UK is expected to switch to tactics aimed at delaying the spread of the virus rather than containing it
- Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias is self-isolating after his wife tested positive for the virus, the government says
- Greece reported its coronavirus death, a 66-year-old returning from a pilgrimage in the Middle East
What else did the US president say?
“This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history,” he said.
Justifying the travel restrictions, he accused the EU of failing to take “the same precautions” as the US in fighting the virus.
His speech said all travel from Europe would be suspended but a presidential proclamation later said it would only apply to anyone who had been in the EU’s Schengen border-free area in the 14 days before their arrival in the US.
Mr Trump also said the suspension would also apply to cargo coming from Europe into the US. He later tweeted to say that trade would “in no way be affected”.
The speech included plans to provide billions of dollars in loans to small businesses and the president urged Congress to free up more funds.
President Trump said for most Americans the risk was “very, very low” adding “no nation is more prepared or more resilient than the United States”.
Has the announcement been welcomed?
In its response the EU said the coronavirus was “a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action.
“The EU disapproves of the fact that the US decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation,” European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel said in a statement.
Senior Democrats said it was “alarming” that President Trump did not address a shortage of coronavirus testing kits in the US.
“The best way to help keep the American people safe and ensure their economic security is for the president to focus on fighting the spread of the coronavirus itself,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.
On the travel ban, Lawrence Gostin, a public health expert at Georgetown University, tweeted: “most of Europe is as safe as US. This will have no impact on US … germs don’t respect borders”.