The US is banning the entry of people travelling from the UK and Ireland from midnight on Monday (Early Tuesday). As a result, the UK Foreign Office is now advising against all but essential travel to the whole of the US.
US airports have been thrown into chaos as new coronavirus health screening measures for people returning from Europe come into force. Long queues formed as travelers waited for hours for the screenings before passing through customs.
President Donald Trump tweeted on Sunday that the US is “doing very precise Medical Screenings at our airports”.
“Pardon the interruptions and delays, we are moving as quickly as possible, but it is very important that we be vigilant and careful. We must get it right. Safety first!”
The US has more than 2,700 confirmed cases, with 54 deaths.
Mr Trump said: “If you don’t have to travel, I wouldn’t do it. We want this thing to end. We don’t want a lot of people getting infected.”
The US administration has imposed a ban on non-Americans travelling from the 26 European countries in the Schengen free movement zone. The ban will be extended to the UK and Ireland as of Tuesday.
US citizens are allowed to return but face screening.
“We were told there was additional screening while on the plane, but no details. We were not told anything at any stage. It took me two hours to get through.”
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said the long lines at O’Hare were “unacceptable”.
People have been tweeting pictures and videos of passengers waiting to be processed, forming large crowds in airport terminals:
Passengers are being questioned about their medical histories and checked for symptoms.
Another O’Hare traveller, Tim Clancy, told the BBC the airport was “really hectic”.
“I felt there wasn’t a lot of access to hand sanitiser or restrooms because you’d likely lose your place in the queue. I didn’t see too many people coughing though.”
Mr Clancy, 20, was returning home after studying in Athens, Greece. He ended up queuing for a total of five hours. A nurse took his temperature before he was allowed to leave the airport. “It truly felt like an apocalyptic scenario,” she said.
In New York, there were reports of a flight from Paris being boarded by customs agents wearing masks.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said his office was working with airlines to improve screening times.
Some public health experts have noted that waiting in crowded terminals could potentially lead to more people becoming infected with the virus. (bbc news)