Hours after the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic, President Donald Trump announced a 30-day travel ban on most of Europe. But he excluded two countries where he has hotels and golf courses that have been struggling financially: the UK and Ireland.
Trump has two properties in the UK — Trump Turnberry and Trump International Golf Links, Scotland — as well as another in Doonbeg, Ireland.
The new travel restrictions, announced by Trump via an Oval Office address, are directed at 26 European countries that are part of what is known as the Schengen Area: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
The Schengen Area does not include the UK and Ireland. Bulgaria, Croatia, and Romania are also not part of it.
More than 450 coronavirus cases have been reported in the UK. Ireland reported its first death from the coronavirus on Wednesday, with at least 43 cases confirmed, the Irish Times reported.
—CNN International (@cnni) March 12, 2020
Leo Varadkar, Ireland's prime minister, is set to meet with Trump at the White House on Thursday, just one day after Trump announced the new restrictions. Earlier this week, Varadkar announced Ireland was cancelling its St. Patrick's Day parade due to the coronavirus outbreak.
In his Wednesday speech Trump presented the coronavirus as a "foreign virus," even though multiple American cases have been reported since last month and is a growing problem in the US.
The president claimed the US has been doing a better job than Europe in terms of its response to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease known as COVID-19.
"Taking early intense action, we have seen dramatically fewer cases of the virus in the United States than are now present in Europe," Trump said. "The European Union failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel from China and other hotspots."
Trump's remarks came as his administration faces ongoing, widespread criticism over a lack of testing for the virus linked to faulty kits sent out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last month. The US is still facing a shortage of testing kits, which limits the government's ability to gauge the scale of the outbreak.
Other countries have outpaced the US in terms of testing, which has served as a source of national embarrassment.
Trump's Wednesday night address was full of errors in terms of its presentation of the administration's actual policy, which left officials scrambling to offer clarifications after.
As Insider's Grace Panetta reported: Trump and the officials quickly walked back his nationally-televised statements that 1) the administration would ban all travel from Europe to the United States, 2) the ban would also apply to trade and cargo between the US and Europe, and 3) major health insurers would waive co-pays on coronavirus treatment.
The European travel ban does not extend to US citizens, legal permanent residents, or immediate family members of US citizens.
Trump's speech and the new travel restrictions came just one day after the president urged the public to "stay calm," stating that the novel coronavirus would "go away."
"It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away," the president said.
The US's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told House lawmakers the next day that the outbreak was "going to get worse" in the US.