Washington: Travelers scrambled to rebook flights and global markets reeled on Thursday after US President Donald Trump imposed sweeping restrictions on travel from Europe, hitting battered airlines and further straining ties with the continent.
Trump ordered travel from Europe to the United States restricted for 30 days, responding to mounting pressure to take action against a rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak disrupting nearly all corners of U.S. daily life.
“We are marshaling the full power of the federal government and the private sector to protect the American people,” Trump said in a prime-time televised address from the Oval Office on Wednesday.
“This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history.”
The travel order, which starts at midnight on Friday, does not apply to Britain, or to Americans undergoing “appropriate screenings,” Trump said.
After triggering confusion by suggesting trade with Europe would also be suspended, Trump clarified that “trade will in no way be affected.”
“The restriction stops people not goods,” he said on Twitter moments after his speech.
The surprise restrictions sent financial markets tumbling, with Euro Stoxx 50 futures plunging 8.3% to their lowest levels since mid-2016. U.S. stock futures were down more than 4%.
“Already we know the economic impact is significant, and with this additional measure on top it’s just going to multiply the impact across businesses,” said Khoon Goh, head of Asia Research at ANZ in Singapore. “This is something that markets had not factored in … it’s a huge near-term economic cost.”
Trump said his government had been in frequent contact with U.S. allies about the restriction, but European Union officials were not notified about it ahead of time, said one diplomat.
Trump’s travel order, which applies to 26 European countries, capped a day of mounting upheavals on the domestic front from the highly contagious respiratory illness, also known as COVID-19. Reuters