President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced that the federal government would suspend travel from Europe to the United States for 30 days, beginning at the end of the day on Friday, March 13. The move came in response to the escalating COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, which the World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared a pandemic.
What exactly are the parameters of the ban, and how will it affect the tech world? Here’s what you need to know.
There was some confusion after Trump’s initial announcement, in which the president said, “We will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days,” adding that “these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval. Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we’re discussing.”
A total ban on travel and shipping from Europe would be huge, but Trump appears to have misspoken. The text of the official proclamation states: “The entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the Schengen Area [of Europe] during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States is hereby suspended and limited subject to section 2 of this proclamation.”
The Schengen Area is a region of 26 countries, most of which are part of the European Union, in which there are no restrictions on crossing the territory’s internal borders (the external borders of the region are still policed, however). The idea behind the Schengen Area is that by removing border checks between members, people can freely and easily travel throughout Europe.
While Trump noted in his announcement that the travel ban would not apply to the United Kingdom, other European countries not in the Schengen Area (such as Romania and Russia) are not covered by the ban. It’s important to note that the proclamation specifies anyone who has been physically in the Schengen region, even if they are trying to enter the U.S. from a country outside of it — so, someone who has traveled from Italy to Russia and now wants to fly to the U.S. would be affected, even though Russia is not one of the countries in the Schengen zone.
The suspension does not apply to “any lawful permanent resident of the United states,” nor “aliens” who are the immediate family (spouses and parents, for example) of a U.S. citizen. However, any such people who have been in the Schengen Area in the last 14 days will be “directed to limited airports where screening can take place,” according to the White House.
The travel restriction applies to foreign nationals who have been in 26 European countries with open borders agreements, in the last 14 days.
Those exempt from these restrictions, such as U.S. citizens, will be directed to limited airports where screening can take place.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) March 12, 2020
Given the volatile nature of the global economy as a result of the outbreak, Trump’s claim that the ban covers “anything coming from Europe to the United States” including trade and cargo was shocking, leaving some to think that products that were made in Europe couldn’t come to the U.S.
However, his official proclamation contradicts this, stating that “the free flow of commerce between the United States and the Schengen Area countries remains an economic priority for the United States, and I remain committed to facilitating trade between our nations.”
Hoping to get the payroll tax cut approved by both Republicans and Democrats, and please remember, very important for all countries & businesses to know that trade will in no way be affected by the 30-day restriction on travel from Europe. The restriction stops people not goods.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 12, 2020
He later tweeted that “trade will in no way be affected by the 30-day restriction on travel from Europe. The restriction stops people not goods.”
The EU responded to Trump’s proclamation sternly. Charles Michel, president of the European Council, said in a statement that “the coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent, and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action.”
The travel suspension goes into effect 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday, March 13. It does not, however, apply to anyone on a flight to the U.S. that departed before that time. Although Trump and the White House have called it a 30-day suspension, the text of the proclamation does say that it “shall remain in effect until terminated by the president.”
The impact on the tech industry specifically might not be dramatic. Contrary to the initial announcement, goods from Europe aren’t subject to the restrictions, so products that are manufactured there (such as Sennheiser’s high-end headphones) should still be shipping to the U.S. Moreover, many of Europe’s biggest tech companies, such as Spotify and Skype, provide services accessible over the internet.
Tech workers and executives who have recently spent time in Schengen countries may have to postpone any meetings they had planned in the U.S. or hold them via teleconferencing. Many companies have already cut down on business trips as a result of the outbreak. The coronavirus outbreak itself has bludgeoned the tech industry, but it’s unclear if the new travel ban will have a sizable impact.
Airlines have taken a beating, with stocks taking a nosedive on Thursday.
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