More chaos as US adds UK and Ireland to COVID-19 bans

March 15, 2020
British Airways
US and British carriers are scrambling to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. Photo: BA

Travelers and airlines face further chaos after the UK and Ireland were added to the US travel band in place since  Saturday for 26 European countries.

The US administration confirmed the latest move will begin midnight on Monday and means foreign nationals who have traveled to UK or Ireland in the last 14 days will be denied permission to enter the US.

It is among several countries to introduce tougher entry requirements in recent weeks. New Zealand also announced over the weekend that it would require travelers entering the country from anywhere but a list of Pacific islands to self-isolate for 14 days. It has also banned cruise ships until the end of June.

READ: Shock New Zealand move to isolate nearly all visitors.

US citizens and permanent residents who have been in the two countries in the last 14 days will be allowed to return home from the UK  but only via designated airports.

The European ban had angered the European Union and airlines because of the lack of consultation and the fact it is counter to current advice from the World Health Organization.

The US President indicated in a Press conference Saturday that experts were looking at new numbers.

He said the UK ‘s numbers had gone up “fairly precipitously over the last 24 hours” and they could be added to the list of banned countries.

He also indicated other countries could be added to the list.

“And we may, frankly, start thinking about taking some off,’’ he said.

Vice President Mike Pence later confirmed the UK and Ireland had been added to the list from midnight Monday.

He said health experts had presented information and made a unanimous recommendation to the Trump Administration that all travel be suspended.

Airlines began reacting to the new ban as customers swamped call centers.

American Airlines said it was evaluating its current scheduled service to the UK and Ireland but had not yet made any additional adjustments to its schedule at this time. American previously announced a schedule reduction to London.

“American continues to work closely with the US authorities to comply with these new orders while treating all of our customers with respect,’’ it said.

Delta Air Lines urged customers not traveling in the next 72 hours to wait and contact it closer to their trip.

“As the coronavirus situation continues to evolve, our teams are focused on first addressing the needs of customers who are traveling within the next 72 hours, as well as those who have been impacted by the U.S. government-issued travel restrictions between the U.S. and Europe,” it said

“Due to high volume traffic, customers are experiencing issues and we recognize that this is frustrating.

“To help address customers with immediate travel needs, we are asking those who do not have travel in the next 72 hours to wait and contact us closer to your trip.”

It was a similar message in the UK from British Airways, which urged people to check its website.

“Thank you for the trust you place in us every time you choose to travel with British Airways,” it said.

“These are unprecedented times for our industry, our country and the world.

“Please be assured that our expert teams are working closely with the UK Government and health organizations around the world to ensure we’re following the very latest advice. We’ll do everything we can to help customers affected.”

Trump, who has been tested for the coronavirus and whose temperature is now being regularly monitored, has declared a national emergency in the US, a move that will open up access to up to $US50 billion in funds and has urged US states to set up emergency operation centers.