Donald Trump claims virus ‘seeded’ in European travellers as EU strikes back

U.S. President Donald Trump (R) with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. Picture: Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesU.S. President Donald Trump (R) with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. Picture: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
U.S. President Donald Trump (R) with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. Picture: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images | 2020 Getty Images
The European Union has hit out at US president Donald Trump’s “unilateral” decision to restrict travel from Europe to the United States over the coronavirus, saying the illness does not respect borders.

Mr Trump has called the disease a “foreign virus” and claimed US clusters were “seeded” by European travellers. He announced all European travel would be cut off, but US officials later said restrictions would apply only to most foreign citizens who have been in Europe’s passport-free travel zone at any point for 14 days prior to their arrival to the United States.

European Council president Charles Michel and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said in a joint statement: “The European Union disapproves of the fact that the US decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation. The coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires co-operation rather than unilateral action.”

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They rejected Mr Trump’s suggestion that Europe was not doing enough to combat Covid-19, saying the 27-nation bloc “is taking strong action to limit the spread of the virus”.

The so-called Schengen area comprises 26 countries, including EU members France, Italy, German, Greece, Austria and Belgium, where the bloc has its headquarters, but also others such as Switzerland, Norway and Iceland.

The restrictions announced by Mr Trump do not apply to the UK, where the number of confirmed cases has reached 460, or Ireland, which is not part of Schengen.

According to flight tracker FlightAware, around 400 flights cross the Atlantic from Europe to the US each day.

The unprecedented measure is one of many taken by Mr Trump since he came to office that appear to target the EU – a major trading partner with several member countries that are also US allies in Nato.

Mr Trump slapped tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from Europe and threatened broader trade action, notably against European carmakers.

The US president has also abandoned an international climate agreement backed by France, as well as the EU-sponsored deal limiting Iran’s nuclear development.

But Mr Trump is also an ally of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and supported Britain’s departure from the EU.

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The US leader also owns three golf resorts in the UK and Ireland.

Mr Trump called the ban the “most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history”.

More than 1,300 confirmed cases of the virus have been reported in the US, with 38 deaths so far.

Asked what immediate action the EU might take in response, commission spokesman Eric Mamer said the EU “isn’t in the habit of shooting from the hip”. “Good policy-making requires reflection,” Mr Mamer said.

The Atlantic Council’s Daniel Fried, a former US ambassador to Poland, said he found Mr Trump’s remarks disappointing: “Anti-EU bashing is indulgence,” he said.

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s latest figures, more than 22,000 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed across Europe, and 943 people have died on the continent.

Several EU meetings have been cancelled to slow the spread, but the bloc’s interior ministers are still scheduled to gather in Brussels today.



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