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Covid-19: Trump bans all Schengen area travel to US

US President Trump has banned all travel to the US from the Schengen area in Europe for 30 days to halt the spread of Covid-19, hours before President Macron is to make an address about the virus.

US travel ban

The travel ban is set to come into force on Friday March 13. It applies only to the 26 countries in the Schengen area, including France - but not the UK or to Ireland.

It applies also to people connecting via the Schengen area, even if the original departure airport was in the UK or Ireland.

It does not apply to US citizens.

People flying from the US are still free to travel to Europe if they wish. And, as President Trump said in a later Tweet, it does not apply to cargo goods or trade; only people.

Airlines are not required to refund you if you personally choose to cancel your travel plans. However if the airline itself cancels, or travel restrictions are in place, the airline will normally be required to refund you, or provide you with a suitable alternative flight.

Some insurance policies - especially those with “Travel Disruption” cover - may be able to refund any affected travel or costs, but insurance companies will normally require you to attempt to get a refund from the airline, tour operator (if applicable) or credit card company first.

President Trump made the announcement as part of his second-ever Oval Office address.

It was confirmed alongside a series of other measures including billions of dollars worth of loans to small businesses affected by the outbreak, tax reliefs to help the US economy, and advice that elderly care homes should suspend all unnecessary visits.

France suspended all non-essential visits to elderly care homes (Ehpad) on Wednesday March 11.

President Macron address tonight

President Emmanuel Macron is set to address the French people in a statement on the country’s plans to combat Covid-19, tonight (Thursday March 12) at 20h.

Mr Macron has made a number of statements about the virus in recent days - including a Tweet saying: "Faced with the coronavirus, we will not allow speculation or instability. Europe will do everything necessary in both health and economic terms."

Yet, this will be his first official address on the subject directly to the public.

The statement is set to provide “an update on [the country’s] crisis management plans, in a transparent and educational manner” and “reassure [people] and anticipate the next stage of the crisis”, reported newspaper Le Parisien.

In France, the number of official cases confirmed since the end of January is now at 2,281 - 500 more cases compared to the previous update. 

In the most recent press conference on the issue (Wednesday night), health minister Olivier Véran said that there had been 15 more deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number to 48.

The number of people that have left hospital is now at 105.

Director general for health Jérôme Salomon has said that France is likely to enter stage three of the virus (“epidemic”) within the next days or weeks - with a series of restrictions introduced as a result - but this has not yet been officially declared. The country is still in stage two.

France has now allowed 3,600 businesses and 60,000 workers to claim “technical unemployment” or “partial activity” status due to coronavirus. This means that workers will avoid losing their jobs if they are not able to work due to self-isolation.

Under the rules, workers receive 84% of their usual net salary, financed by State aid. Companies requesting to be part of the scheme will receive a response from the ministry of work “within 48 hours”, it has said.

The French economy has taken a hit due to the outbreak, with the French Stock Exchange down 5.11% on opening this morning. This is similar to London (-4%), Madrid (-5.5%) and Frankfurt (-5.32%).

WHO declares a pandemic

The statements come after the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially classified the virus as a global “pandemic”. 

WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It’s a word that if misused can cause unreasonable fear or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death.

“Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by the virus. It doesn't change what the WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do.”

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