US Government Announces Public Health Emergency

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus was first reported in China on 31 December, it has claimed the lives of at least 300 people, with over 14,000 peoplethought to be infected around the world. It has been confirmed to be present in over 25 countries and the efforts to contain the virus have proven to have been too late to prevent it from spreading frighteningly quickly. Latest reports show that one person outside of China has died but we are yet to discover the full impact of the virus, as the quest to find a vaccination that will prevent it from spreading continues.

US steps up measures to prevent virus entering the country

Countries and authorities around the globe have been quickly moving to establish adequate safety policies to try and prevent the virus from entering their region. The US has now declared a public health emergency and any non-US citizen who has been in China within the past two weeks will face a complete ban from entering the US.

In addition to this move, all flights arriving from China will only be able to land at seven selected airports – New York JFK, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta, Honolulu and LA.

This comes following the decision to keep 195 US citizens who flew in from Wuhan in quarantine for two weeks. This was the first time in over 50 years that the US has taken the measure of quarantining citizens to protect the country from an illness spreading. Wuhan is the area in China that the virus was first reported and the travellers from there were taken to a California military base and after one of them tried to leave the base, the US took the decision to force the quarantine.

11 cases so far in the US

There are currently 11 cases known in the US and the latest is a couple in California, with the husband recently having visited the area of China that the outbreak has heavily affected. The number of cases reported around the world is growing at a rapid rate and it looks like many other countries will follow the US’ lead, despite China complaining that the actions of the US has caused widespread panic.

The US is well known for taking a tough stance on immigration and travelling to the US for the protection of the country and its citizens. Trump has been introducing many changes to the US immigration policy and travel authorization, so this prompt move to ban non-US citizens who have visited China is not a big surprise.

US travel policies for non-US citizens

The US operates with a visa system, so any non-US citizen must obtain a visa to visit the US. The only other alternative is to get an ESTA, which is available to citizens that are from a Visa Waiver Program. The ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) is valid for visits to the US for up to 90 days, for the purposes of tourism, business, medical or transit. One of the key benefits of applying for an ESTA rather than a visa, is it is much faster and easier to obtain that the longer process of applying for a US visa, as well as being less expensive.

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