The United States has expanded its travel ban imposed on European countries in view of the coronavirus pandemic to the United Kingdom and Ireland. The move came as President Donald Trump reviewed measures that his administration was taking to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has so far claimed 55 lives in the country.
The new travel restriction will come into force on Monday night, Vice President Mike Pence told reporters on Saturday after a meeting of the White House Task Force on Coronavirus.
"They've had a little bit of activity unfortunately," Trump told reporters at a White House news conference in response to a question on the travel ban on the United Kingdom and Ireland.
"We made a unanimous recommendation to the President that we suspend all travel from the UK and Ireland. That will be effective midnight, Monday night, Eastern Standard Time," Pence said soon thereafter.
American citizens and legal permanent residents in the UK or Ireland can come home, Pence said. They will be "funneled through specific airports and processed," he added.
"We continue to emphasize that the risk of serious illness for the average American remains low, but data shows that seniors with serious underlying health conditions are our most vulnerable population, the people most susceptible to serious medical outcomes," Pence said.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad F Wolf said the decision to expand the travel ban to the UK and Ireland was taken due to the rising number of cases there.
"These restrictions bar travel for certain foreign nationals who have been present in the UK or Ireland in the past 14 days," he said.
"These restrictions to the UK and Ireland, just like the Schengen zone and China and Iran, do not apply to air cargo, maritime cargo, economic shipping, or the like," Wolf said.
As per the latest report, 55 people have died in the US and there have been nearly 2,500 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country. Globally, the deadly virus has claimed the lives of 5,811 people with 155,218 confirmed cases.