US President Donald Trump has announced sweeping new travel restrictions on Europe in a bid to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
But he said the “strong but necessary” restrictions would not apply to the UK, which has 460 cases of the virus.
A presidential proclamation issued later specified that only travellers from the 26 countries in the Schengen border-free travel area were barred.
This leaves a number of other European countries including Ireland unaffected.
“To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe,” Mr Trump said from the Oval Office on Wednesday evening.
“The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight,” he added. The travel order does not apply to US citizens.
There are 1,135 confirmed cases of the virus across the US, with 38 deaths so far.
Mr Trump said the European Union had “failed to take the same precautions” as the US in fighting the virus.
A presidential proclamation, published shortly after Mr Trump’s speech, specified that the ban applied to anyone who had been in the EU’s Schengen border-free area in the 14 days before their arrival in the US.
The Schengen area, as defined in the proclamation, includes 26 European states, but does not include the UK or Ireland, which will not be subject to the ban.
Mr Trump initally said the travel suspension would also “apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo” coming from Europe into the US. He later tweeted to say that trade would “in no way be affected”.
He also announced plans to provide billions of dollars in loans to small businesses, and urged Congress to pass major tax relief measures in an attempt to stymie the effect of the coronavirus outbreak on the economy.
The US president has faced criticism for his response to the virus.
Reacting to his speech, senior Democrats said it was “alarming” that President Trump did not address a shortage of coronavirus testing kits in the US.
“We have a public health crisis in this country and the best way to help keep the American people safe and ensure their economic security is for the president to focus on fighting the spread of the coronavirus itself,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in a statement.
On the travel ban, Lawrence Gostin, a public health expert at Georgetown University, tweeted: “most of Europe is as safe as US. This will have no impact on US … germs don’t respect borders”.
What’s the situation in the US?
Officials had said the risk of infection was low for the general US public, but concern deepened after a number of new cases were confirmed earlier this month.
Containment efforts have begun in earnest. Troops have been deployed to New Rochelle, just north of New York City, where one outbreak is believed to have originated.
The National Guard will deliver food to some individuals who have been told to self-isolate there.