Wednesday evening, the suggestion became official U.S. policy.
During a nationally televised address to lay out an action plan for dealing with the still-spreading virus, President Donald Trump said that he was ordering a travel ban to the United States from all of Europe, with the exception of the United Kingdom, a decision that was actually praised by American healthcare and health policy experts.
“Over 70 percent of the new cases are linked to the Europe,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield told lawmakers in Washington. “And in the United States, I think it was now 30 states in our country or more were linked actually to cases in Europe. Europe is the new China.”
Asked if the ban would have a significant impact on reducing the community spread of the coronavirus, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said yes. “The answer is a firm yes,” he told the lawmakers during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing.
That was the reason, the rationale, the public health rationale why that recommendation was made,” he added.
Fauci’s answer is curious — if not correct — because in late February, he told a CNBC program that if the outbreak became a pandemic, as it has, then travel restrictions wouldn’t do any good.
“When it was focused only on China, we had a period of time, temporary, that we could do a travel restriction that prevented cases from coming into the U.S.,” Fauci told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.” “When you have multiple countries involved, it’s very difficult to do; in fact, it’s almost impossible.”
Readers may recall that Trump, very early on, ordered a travel ban from China to the U.S. for the very purpose of limiting the disease’s spread domestically. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), told Fox News Feb. 28 he believes that the quick decision by the president was “the single most consequential and valuable thing” he did. (Related: They’re TRYING to spread it! Sacramento County announces ending all 14-day quarantines and releasing high-risk people into the general public.)
In an interview with Sean Hannity, Cotton noted that even then Democrats had begun to criticize the president’s virus response because they criticize “anything that he does.”
“The single most consequential and valuable thing done to stop this virus from already spreading throughout the United States was when President Trump decided to shut down travel to China last month,” Cotton said, referring to the administration's announcement Jan. 31.
Now, most European countries have been added to the travel ban list as well, a move that even some Democrats are now praising.
“It seems like of the 35 states that now have coronaviruses, 30 of them have originated in Europe, so I think it’s a wise move.,” U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), said, the New York Post reported.
“I think it’s a good step, absolutely,” Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) added. “The fact of the matter is we’re going to have to take some very serious steps,” Jones told The Post. “And I think the administration started that yesterday.”
The new travel ban will block the entrance of people who visited or are from the Schengen region — the EU’s 26-nation zone that allows for travel without restrictions or passport controls: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Fauci said that patients from that region were “seeding other countries,” so it was imperative for Trump to shut off travel from there.