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Anarchy as Europeans scramble to get into US amid wait for ban details

by Genesis Goggins (2020-03-28)

Panic emerged Wednesday for Europeans planning travel to the United States in the coming month as President Donald Trump announced a 30-day travel restriction to start this Friday. 

The proposed border closure was revealed as Trump addressed the American public about the worsening coronavirus panic in the U.S., instantly causing confusion in U.S. airports and leaving travelers in limbo over their plans. 

In a rare address from the Oval Office, Trump claimed the European Union 'failed to take the same precautions' and suspended the entry of foreign nationals who have been in most European countries at any point in the past 14 days. 

The United Kingdom and Ireland will not be included in the ban but confusion about what is to come on Friday caused panic for Europeans and Americans alike with some passengers about to board flights turning back around.   

The White House said the travel restrictions would apply to foreign nationals who have visited 26 European countries - but excluding the UK and Ireland - in the past 14 days.

It will not apply to US citizens, their 'immediate' family members or legal permanent residents. But confusion remained over how exactly the rules would apply and in what time zone the deadline would be introduced.

US President Donald Trump addresses the Nation from the Oval Office about the widening novel coronavirus on Wednesday revealing a ban on foreign nationals from Europe

Adriana Dileo and Brian Cardenas decided not to travel to Barcelona on hearing of the ban on travel from Europe while they were already in John F. Kennedy airport

According to a reporter who was in John F. Kennedy airport as the ban was announced, many people continued to travel but airline staff waited for flights to board before removing the luggage of passengers who decided not to continue with their journey. 

Adriana Dileo, 25, from Pittsburgh had traveled to New York to take a flight from JFK to Barcelona.

She had originally been due to go to Italy for three months to teach English but changed her travel plans because of the outbreak there. Italy has suffered the worst outbreak outside of Asia. 

Dileo then planned a shorter alternative European trip to go to Barcelona for four days and then Amsterdam for three days. On Wednesday evening, she was trying to change her flight and go to London or to a country that is not included in the ban.


As of midnight on Wednesday, the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. rose to 1,315

‘I was already in the airport and found out when my dad called freaking out. I can't believe it. He said if you get on that plane you're not coming back. Get out of the airport,' she said. 

‘We are trying to go to London now or somewhere else not affected by the ban.

‘I haven't been worried about things at all. I believe it's like the flu and I'm healthy.'

Amy Mu, 22, her boyfriend Johannes Pascual and his sister Justine Pascual were due to board a flight to Paris for his cousin Yasmin's wedding. 

His parents were already in the air when the ban was announced, traveling from San Francisco to Paris and unaware of the changes.

Justine is studying and with her classes are cancelled so she continued to get on the flight. She said it wouldn't affect her too much if she is stuck in Paris.

Amy said she won't go, deciding it was not worth the risk if further restrictions are to come as she will need to return to her job as a researcher in Colombia. 

‘I'm a green card holder and not a US citizen so am worried I will lose my job if I leave. It's too much of a risk,' she said. 

‘I haven't been super worried about coronavirus as have been taking precautions and am young. I'm more worried for the rest of the population.  

Travelers in JFK airport after the announcement were left unsure of their travel plans

People check in to a British Airways flight at the international terminal at LAX airport in Los Angeles on March 11. The United Kingdom is not included in the travel ban 

Others who were in airports when Trump made the announcement spoke about the drastic change in atmosphere as confused travelers were unsure as to whether it would affect their plans or their return to the United States. 

'I was going to be the intrepid traveler with my traveling buddies but the government decided otherwise so I'm putting on a brave face', said one American passenger at Philadelphia Airport who overheard the announcement as they were about to board a flight to Europe and decided not to take the flight. 

'I've been in airports during snowstorms, hurricanes, and severe storms... but being in the international departures terminal of an airport after the president announces a "flight suspension" from Europe was a feeling like no other,' said Sam Sweeney. a reporter with ABC7 News. 

'This is uncharted territory.'

Reporter Jennifer Berry Hawes was also in the international terminal at Atlanta airport which was empty an hour before her flight. 

'Scene now at the Atlanta airport international terminal right after Trump announced no return flights from Europe for a month,' she wrote.   

'One hour to decide what to do. Risk getting stranded?'   

Even though Ireland is not included in the ban, one flight boarding from JFK to Dublin was warned about the travel suspension announcement.   

'If the leader of the free world is telling you that, you know your travel is being affected I would think that we have to give you your money back,' the airline staff told the waiting passengers.   

Despite Trump declaring that American travelers are not included in the ban and will be allowed back into the country with screening through certain airports, several posted to social media about how they were fleeing the continent before the ban intensified. 

One U.S. citizen claimed he met a group of students from Washington D.C. in Lisbon Airport as he rushed to find a way home. They told him they had informed the U.S. embassy about the ban when they called panicked about their situation.

'It's 2:12am and I'm in Europe walking to the airport to attempt to buy a plane ticket home to the USA before this travel ban happens in 22 hours. I can't seem to access news in a timely fashion. Anyone know if this applies to US citizens?' wrote Brian Kachinsky. 

'I'm at the Lisbon airport. I just talked with a group of college students from DC. The STUDENTS called the embassy and informed THEM of this situation. The US embassy was not informed of this prior to Trump's announcement,' he added.  

'My mom woke me up out of dead ass sleep at 320 am just now to say we are gonna be stuck in Europe for a month. It's 410 and xxxporn we otw to the airport,' another Twitter user wrote. 

Others questioned the exact details of the ban, including the time zone that was to be used when it starts. 

'What does midnight Friday mean? What timezone would trigger midnight Friday? A half hour of sheer panic for Americans in Europe just now,' said American Melissa Brown. 

'It's 4 a.m. in west Europe right now. I think it's likely people are about to start flooding European airports trying to get home amid conflicting information, just as we've been advised to avoid large groups.'

'So irresponsible for the President to not explain this in detail,' added another Twitter user. 

'I know people in Europe right now that literally started packing and went to the airport immediately. We elect a President to handle a crisis the right way this guy isn't capable of that.' 

The decision to ban travel from Europe came so suddenly that information on how it will be implemented will not be released for another 48 hours.