EU slams Trump's virus travel ban

The EU says the coronavirus pandemic "requires co-operation rather than unilateral action"

The European Union has slammed the new anti-virus travel ban announced by US President Donald Trump, lashing out at an "unilateral" decision taken "without consultation".

In a joint statement by EU Council president Charles Michel and the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the two leaders insisted the coronavirus pandemic was a "global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires co-operation rather than unilateral action".

"The European Union disapproves of the fact that the US decision to improve a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation," they said on Thursday.

Given Italy's nationwide shutdown and other measures, von der Leyen and Michel also dismissed Trump's suggestion the EU had not done enough in fighting the disease.

"The European Union is taking strong action to limit the spread of the virus," they said.

Trump said all European travel would be cut off but Homeland Security officials later clarified the new restrictions would apply only to most foreign nationals who have been in Europe's passport-free travel zone at any point for 14 days before their arrival to the United States.

The so-called Schengen area comprises 26 countries including EU members France, Italy, German, Greece, Austria and Belgium, where the bloc has its headquarters but also others such as Switzerland, Norway and Iceland.

The restrictions announced by Trump do not apply to the United Kingdom, where the number of confirmed cases has reached 460, or Ireland, which is not part of Schengen.

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control's latest figures, more than 17,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed across Europe and more than 700 people have died on the continent.

With the virus now present in all 27 EU countries, the bloc's top officials have pledged to stand united in fighting the disease.