ESTA Travel Blogs

06 Apr

ESTA Travel: FAQ about the European travel ban and coronavirus

ESTA US travel and impacts of coronavirus

Top 10 FAQ about the US-imposed temporary travel restrictions on Europe and the Schengen area, COVID-19 pandemic news and health tips


5 April 2020 – The United States government has imposed some of the strictest travel restrictions that have ever been placed due to the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-coV-2) which causes COVID-19 disease and recently has been declared a pandemic by The World Health Organization. The virus which is spreading across the globe has effectively halted tourist and business travel to the United States from much of Europe including from those countries in the region known as the Schengen area. The temporary travel restrictions which went into effect on 16 March were announced in a rare Oval Office (White House) televised address on 13 March by the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. A few days later the United States added the United Kingdom and Ireland to the entry ban, which was put in place in attempt to stop the virus from spreading in the USA.

While countries scramble to contain the spread of the virus, international travel to the US, Europe and beyond has been severely impacted. Two weeks after the travel restrictions announced by Mr. Trump the world’s battle against the pandemic is ongoing. As the United States instills measures to mitigate the virus’ spread, Dr. Anthony Fauci―a renowned medical expert and director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as well as a  member of President Trump's coronavirus task force―spoke during a press briefing on 29 March about efforts to slow the spread of contagion, “We feel that the mitigation that we’re doing right now is having an effect. It’s very difficult to quantitate it because you have two dynamic things going on at the same time.” But, he said he saw a “glimmer” of hope for mitigating the virus spread.

Understanding COVID-19 and measures for personal and public safety


Efforts to inform and educate the public are widespread and far reaching. One example of a recently launched tool is that of tech giant, Apple. The world-recognized Apple Inc. (AAPL - NASDAQ) is an American multinational technology company based in California. The company has released a website and accompanying app designed to assist users to self-screen for symptoms of the coronavirus (SARS-coV-2). The website states that, “This tool can help you understand what to do next about COVID-19.” The website invites users to collective action and caring, “Let’s all look out for each other by knowing our status, trying not to infect others, and reserving care for those in need.” The Apple COVID-19 screening tool has been created in partnership with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The World Health Organization (WHO) has extensive international resources dedicated to coronavirus (SARS-coV-2) and COVID-19 disease. Guidance for countries managing the pandemic is a focal point. In a 30 March press conference WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, spoke of the critical initiatives including publishing a comprehensive manual that offers “guidelines to help countries balance the demands of responding directly to COVID-19, while maintaining essential health services.” This includes the immediate need both in Europe and the United States for adequate health workforces as well as screening and triage facilities. In response to one global issue in the forefront of our collective minds―medical equipment and supplies, he said, “WHO is working intensively with several partners to massively increase access to life-saving products, including diagnostics, PPE, medical oxygen, ventilators and more.”

For individuals, the World Health Organization’s website provides support including tips for prevention, resource literature and videos, fact-versus-myth information, and a COVID-19 situation dashboard which overviews the pandemic’s regional and international status. Tools to mitigate the spread of the virus include ways we can each protect ourselves and our homes.


Top 5 pieces of advice from WHO to reduce risks of spread of coronavirus


1. Wash your hands often
Best practice is to spend 20 seconds thoroughly washing hands with soap and water several times per day to kill coronavirus. Use warm-to-hot water when available. In the absence of soap and water an alcohol-based hand sanitizer will help kill the virus.
NOTE: It is recommended that handwashing be done for at least 20 seconds. And, thanks to a teen from England who created tool called ‘Wash Your Lyrics,’ which lets users select favorite songs. The program then creates and delivers a downloadable poster with lyrics that take 20 seconds to sing.

2. Try not to touch your own face
Minimize frequency of touching eyes, nose and mouth areas. Surfaces we touch during everyday activities may be contaminated and the virus can be transferred to the face― specifically the eyes, nose and mouth.

3. Practice social distancing
One of the most important precautions to practice is physical social distancing. Keep 2 meters between yourself and others to avoid inhaling the miniscule droplets exhaled by others when they speak and especially when they cough or sneeze. 

4. Practice good respiratory hygiene to avoid transmitting coronavirus
Respiratory droplets are a key contributor to the spread of viruses. Safe respiratory hygiene examples: Cover both your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into the bend in your elbow.

5. Clean and disinfect surfaces 
Surfaces at home and at work should be disinfected regularly. 
Home and office: Think phones, keyboards, doorknobs, light switches, cabinet doors, countertops, refrigerator door handles, faucets, and other high-touch items.
Car: Use disinfecting wipes to clean steering wheel, key, shifter, door handles, and other frequently touched surfaces.






For additional resources WHO (World Health Organization) has created videos to educate the public about SARS-CoV-2, also known as the 2019 novel coronavirus, so individuals can select the subjects they need information about and explore a comprehensive video library.

Visit the WHO YouTube Channel





Places with germs: Top 10 surfaces to avoid touching when possible

There are items we come in contact with frequently that many of us never think about. But these high-contamination places and items should be on everyone’s radar.

Ten of the dirtiest things in public places:

•    Public doors - push and pull handles
•    Public transportation – railings, seat backs, arm rests
•    Petrol pump handles
•    Payment terminals in stores / touch screens at food kiosks
•    Automat and cash machine buttons and touch screen
•    Escalator and public stair rails
•    Parking meters/kiosks
•    Vending machine buttons
•    Public restrooms  - sink/toilet handles
•    Shopping cart handles




Understanding social distancing terminology


Stay home, lockdown, only essential travel, quarantine. There are many terms to describe degrees of physical separation to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. 

Social distancing: This refers to physical distance and the space we keep between ourselves and others. Two meters, or six feet, is the common recommendation and that of WHO for space to keep between us and those we encounter in public, whether shopping for food and completing other essential errands, walking the dog or visiting the park, people should practice ‘social distancing.’ 

Lockdown: The mandatory nationwide lockdown imposed on many countries including Spain, France and Italy, among others in Europe, refers to the ban on nonessential travel, including intracity travel, and the mass closing of businesses deemed non-essential. Limits on time outdoors for exercise varies from country to country.

Stay at home: Home confinement and stay at home are terms used often. Sometimes though, ‘stay at home’ refers to workers. As example, on 28 March, Spain ordered that all non-essential workers stay at home and not report to work for two weeks.

Self-isolation: Generally, self-isolation describes when an individual is potentially infected with the novel coronavirus and is probably showing at least some symptoms of COVID-19 such as a fever or cough. Usually this is done at home, and the individual in self isolation will keep apart as much as possible from other members of the household. They shall not leave for work or other purposes until they are tested for COVID-19 and then are confirmed to be well again.

Quarantine: When an individual is exposed to a person who is known to have COVID-19 they are required to quarantine for a 14-day period. Depending on the circumstance, quarantine may be self-quarantine in one’s home or may be done in a hospital setting. When needed quarantine is imposed on travelers arriving in a region from another where there is confirmation of confirmed COVID-19 cases.




ESTA and travel to the US once the travel restrictions are lifted

While the travel restrictions are in effect there is no entry in the United States for travelers, including ESTA-approved travelers from any visa waiver program countries including those that are Schengen are members. The exact timeframe for when the US will allow foreign visitors is yet to be decided and is being reviewed on a regular basis. We will offer updated information in upcoming blog posts. Follow our blog to stay up to date on the temporary restrictions on travel.

Once the restrictions are lifted―whether for visitors from all Schengen countries at once, or staggered―both tourists and business travelers with ESTA approval will be able to enter the US for visa-free stays with a 90-day limit

While travel to the US from Europe is on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic much or the world is, for the near future at least, sheltering at home and trying to find ways to spend their newfound free time. To learn about visa-free travel with the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) so you can daydream―if not actually book―your next American adventure, you can visit our comprehensive ESTA Guide now. 



Temporary travel ban extends to most European region countries

United Kingdom: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland and Ireland 

The Schengen Area: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.