Will Britain now ban flights from EU? Boris Johnson may face calls to stop European visitors jetting into UK at today’s COBRA meeting after Trump’s coronavirus clampdown at airports
- Trump blames EU for failing to stop the killer virus in its tracks in recent weeks
- Flights from 26 European countries will be stopped from Friday at Midnight
- US border agents expected to stop them flying to America via a British airport
- But planes between US and the UK and Ireland will continue, US President said
- Critics say EU freedom of movement makes UK more vulnerable to coronavirus
Britain is today under increasing pressure to mirror Donald Trump’s unprecedented ban on flights to and from mainland Europe to stem the spread of coronavirus.
Mr Trump blames the EU for failing to stop the killer virus in its tracks – but has exempted the UK and Ireland from his 30-day travel moratorium from midnight on Friday.
Critics including Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage have been arguing for weeks that without a wider travel ban, EU freedom of movement is making the UK far more vulnerable to coronavirus.
British ministers will today step up their war against coronavirus today after the World Health Organisation declared the outbreak had become a pandemic and the UK total rose by 83 to 456 yesterday – meaning it has more than doubled in just four days. Eight have died.
In less than 48 hours all flights between America and continental Europe will be banned – but the move was so sudden Mr Trump’s acting Homeland Security secretary said the full guidance on how it would work is still not complete.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the Government would take the ‘right steps at the right time’ – but played down the prospect of a US-style travel ban.
In response to Donald Trump’s announcement, he told the BBC: ‘We haven’t believed that that’s the right thing to do, the evidence here doesn’t support that. What we are trying to do is contain the virus while recognising that it is now likely that it will spread more significantly.’
Passengers in masks arrive at Heathrow yesterday hours before Trump announced all flights between America and Europe – apart from the UK and Ireland – would be banned from midnight on Friday
Planes to the US from 26 mainland European countries will be grounded – and according to the Department of Homeland Security they will check if anyone arriving in the US has been to any of those countries in the previous 14 days – the coronavirus incubation period.
Who is Donald Trump banning from travelling to the US?
WHICH EUROPEAN COUNTRIES HAVE BEEN BANNED
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, Switzerland
WHO THE BAN APPLIES TO
Most foreign nationals who have been in these countries at any point during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the United States
AND WHO IT DOESN’T
‘Legal permanent residents, (generally) immediate family members of U.S. citizens, and other individuals who are identified in the proclamation.’*
* according to Department of Homeland Security
It will not apply to US citizens, their ‘immediate’ family members or legal permanent residents, if they can get flights home.
But confusion remained over how exactly the rules would apply.
Some have claimed that Europeans could fly into London and change for a transatlantic flight. But it is likely that border agents would check where they came from and turn them back.
Britain is today set to switch from a ‘contain’ policy to ‘delay’, with advice on ‘social distancing’ to stop the disease from spreading.
Thousands of flights between Britain and Italy have been axed until April but there are call for a wider European ban to be implemented to stop the flow of coronavirus.
UK Government sources have also accused the EU of dragging their feet over flight bans.
One senior insider told MailOnline last month: ‘What is the point in one of you banning flights if none of the others are going to do it?’ a senior government source told MailOnline. ‘Because you just get in by an indirect route.’
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said: ‘EU freedom of movement does make us more vulnerable.’
UK hospitals are preparing to cancel thousands of non-urgent operations to free up beds, while sporting events, concerts and festivals scheduled for the next few weeks are likely to be cancelled or held behind closed doors.
The elderly and those with long-term illnesses will be advised to stay at home when the epidemic hits its peak in Britain. Healthy adults will be advised to work from home where possible.
Oval Office address: Donald Trump finally addressed the nation about the coronavirus crisis from the White House on Wednesday and banned all travel to Europe
Boris Johnson is expected to usher in the ‘delay’ phase at a Cobra meeting today after the UK saw its biggest jump in infections in a single day.
The new cases include health minister Nadine Dorries and a resident at a Hampshire care home.
Another two elderly patients were confirmed to have been killed by the virus yesterday, taking the death toll in the UK to eight.
A Briton has also died from coronavirus during a luxury family holiday in Bali. The 59-year-old had been staying at the five-star Four Seasons hotel.
Her husband was in hospital under observation yesterday, while her four children were in quarantine. She reportedly had several underlying health conditions, including diabetes, chronic lung disease and hypertension.
The deaths came as the WHO warned some countries had been complacent over the outbreak as it upgraded its status to that of a pandemic.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general, said he had been calling for ‘urgent and aggressive action’ on a daily basis, adding: ‘We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction.
‘We have therefore made the assessment that Covid-19 can be characterised as a pandemic.’
Dr Ghebreyesus said some countries were struggling with a ‘lack of resources’ – but others had shown a ‘lack of resolve’.
The WHO’s declaration is a recognition that the outbreak has spread across multiple countries beyond initial predictions. Its official definition of a pandemic is ‘an epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people’.
Until now, ministers in Britain have been trying to contain the spread of the virus but they now accept this is impossible.
Instead, they will focus on delaying the peak of the epidemic to the spring or summer, which would be less disastrous timing for the NHS.
Officials are also hoping to ‘flatten the peak’ – reducing the number of patients infected at any one time, to lessen the impact on hospitals. They remain reluctant to close schools as they are concerned that many doctors and nurses will be forced to stay at home to look after their children.
Despite this, some schools are considering extending their Easter holidays by an extra week on each side – meaning the two-week break would be lengthened to four.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock re-iterated yesterday that the Government had ‘no plans for a mass closure of schools’. Addressing the Commons, he said: ‘Of course individual schools sometimes will be advised to be closed, but because one of the saving graces of this virus is that it doesn’t have a big impact on children, it means there are fewer benefits to closing schools.’
He also stressed that Parliament would remain open despite his own health minister becoming one of the latest cases.
‘The ability to hold the Government to account and to legislate are as vital in a time of emergency as in normal times,’ he said. ‘Our democracy is the foundation of our way of life.’
Mr Hancock also said he wanted to ‘get his hands on’ as many additional frontline NHS staff as possible, including retired doctors, trainee nurses and medical nurses. He added that special advice would be issued to care homes later this week which could lead to visitors being banned or restricted.
Britons could even be advised to self-isolate even if they have the mildest of symptoms – such as a cough or cold – as suggested by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty earlier this week.
A Whitehall source said: ‘The health experts will present a set of options on what we could do, the benefits of each and the disruption they would cause.’
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