Trying to make sense of President Trump’s coronavirus travel ban

My jaw dropped last night when I heard President Trump say (in the speech embedded below) that he was implementing a 30-day travel ban on flights from Europe but exempted the United Kingdom and Asia (as well as the rest of the world). In my opinion, there should have been widespread testing at all airports starting weeks ago. It seems like it’s almost too late to stop the spread of the coronavirus but what the heck do I know about the spread of disease and viruses? I only know about travel and I still can’t get my head around this travel ban.

There seems to be a lot of confusion to say the least around the travel ban. So here’s the situation as best as I can wrap my head around it:

What does the coronavirus travel ban actually say?

For clarity, here’s the official Department of Homeland Security statement as it appears on the DHS site: The proclamation “suspends the entry of most foreign nationals who have been in certain European countries at any point during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the United States. These countries, known as the Schengen Area, include: 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. This does not apply to legal permanent residents, (generally) immediate family members of U.S. citizens, and other individuals who are identified in the proclamation.”

What European countries does it not apply to?

The travel ban applies if you’ve been in one of the 26 Schengen Area countries listed above. The Schengen Area, by the way, is “an area comprising 26 European states that have officially abolished all passport and all other types of border control at their mutual borders” (read more here). European countries not in the Schengen Area are: Albania, Andora, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Georgia, Ireland, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and Vatican City. The three European microstates on the list—Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City, so small that they don’t even have airports—are considered “de facto” part of the Schengen Area but still don’t seem to be included in the travel ban.

Who does the coronavirus travel ban apply to?

According to DHS via NBC News, “the restrictions apply only to foreign nationals, and not U.S. citizens, green card holders or the families of U.S. citizens.”

How long will it last?

After it begins on Friday at midnight, it’s set to last 30 days, though updates to that timeline wouldn’t be surprising.

YouTube video


The ban is to take effect midnight Friday and I still have no idea what’s going on. I’m not sure anyone does. Can airlines just fly to the major airports in the non-Schengen Area countries listed above? Can passengers connect via the U.K. and come to the U.S.? Can they fly to/from Europe via Canada and then just cross the border? Buffalo, NY, is 90 minutes from Toronto. Seattle is 150 miles from Vancouver. How will that work?

I can’t imagine a lot of airlines are going to be able to continue to fly to/from Europe beyond destinations in Ireland and the U.K. (London, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dublin, Shannon, Cork…). Already, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants, which represents United, Hawaiian, Alaska, and Norwegian, had these scathing words for the news (embedded in the tweet below):

What’s next?

I’m waiting to find out just like you are. Stay tuned. In the meantime, make sure to check out our coronavirus resource page for travelers.


9 Comments On "Trying to Make Sense of President Trump’s Coronavirus Travel Ban"
  1. Elizabeth|

    Dublin,Shannon and Cork are not part of the U.K.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Good catch! But Ireland is exempt as well so the wording needs to be changed

  2. Anita Butler|

    Johnny, what do you recommend for domestic travel to countries not included in the President’s ban?

    1. Johnny Jet|
  3. John Wilson|

    Johnny – I’m wondering about your “take” on, NOT the frequent handwashing, which is of course , great advice – but my bet is that many travelers do NOT sanitize their cell/smartphones, and it would then seem that once one brings it up to one’s face, any virus or other contamination present on the phone would, of course, be communicable to the user

    Your advice? I mention this only because, as you do, I read a lot about sensible precautions for travelers, but I don’t recall reading much, if at all, about using one’s (dirty?) cell phone…

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Hi John! That’s a great tip and I disinfect my phone everyday. Apple just came out the other day that it’s ok to use disinfectant wipes as long as they don’t have bleach in them.

  4. James weber|

    Tests at the airport would be worthless as the results are not available for two days. Are you suggesting that all passengers be quarantined until their results are available?

  5. Kathleen|

    Pres has specialists working with him regarding the ban……. do you really think we have ALL the details or for that matter need all the details concerning the ban……. if you don’t get it or are confused by it that’s real tough…… I’m prepared to following EXPERTS advise and am grateful for the temp ban……. caution and preparedness….. 30 days seem reasonable. John, your world needs a cautionary adjustment…… all information is constantly changing and that is fine with me……. stay home!!!!!

  6. Kathleen|

    New testing takes one hour……

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