US travel restrictions go into effect to prevent coronavirus spread

The US has implemented stringent travel restrictions since Sunday evening in order to contain the novel coronavirus outbreak that has infected more than 19,000 worldwide and killed more than 500 people in China.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Friday that the plan, having gone into effect at 5 p.m. ET that day, includes temporarily denying entry to foreigners who visited China within the 14 days before their arrival to the US.

Restrictions also apply to US citizens who are in the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, Hubei province of China, within the fortnight before their return to the US. Upon their return, those citizens are going to be subject to a compulsory quarantine of up to 14 days, he said.

Moreover, US citizens who came back from the remainder of China within the 14 days prior will undergo health screenings at selected ports of entry and confront to 14 days of self-monitored quarantine.

On Friday, Azar outlined the restrictions when he declared the coronavirus a public health emergency within the US, stressing that “the risk to the American public remains low at this point and that we are working to stay this risk low.” That sentiment was echoed by national security adviser Robert O’Brien.

The Department of Homeland Security announced it might begin enforcing the restrictions Sunday.

Initially, DHS said Americans who have recently been to China would be rerouted to at least one of seven airports – John F. Kennedy in NY, Atlanta, Chicago O’Hare, San Francisco, Seattle-Tacoma, l. a. and Honolulu, Dallas, Newark, Detroit, and Washington’s Dulles.

Acting DHS Secretary Chad F. Wolf said schedule carriers and Customs and Border Protection are working to spot such passengers before their scheduled flights.

If travelers who hung out in China show no symptoms, DHS said, they’re going to be sent to their final destination and asked to quarantine themselves for up to 14 days in their homes.