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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., updates reporters as lawmakers continue work on a coronavirus aid package, on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 12, 2020. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite) Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., updates reporters as lawmakers continue work on a coronavirus aid package, on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 12, 2020. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., updates reporters as lawmakers continue work on a coronavirus aid package, on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 12, 2020. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Miriam Valverde
By Miriam Valverde March 12, 2020

Can Europeans get around Trump travel ban by going to England first? Not so simple

If Your Time is short

  • It isn’t that easy to get around the restrictions by taking a train linking England and France.

  •  The travel ban applies to people who were in designated European countries 14 days before their attempted travel to the United States.

  • Someone in France who traveled to England would not be immediately exempt from the restrictions.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi questioned whether it made sense for the Trump administration to stop travel from certain countries in Europe — but not the United Kingdom — in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

At Pelosi’s weekly press conference, a reporter asked if she thought the administration’s travel ban was "wise." Pelosi said she had spoken with Vice President Mike Pence and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, and was told it was a "scientific medical decision."

"I have great confidence in Dr. Fauci. It's just strange, because they're saying it's because it's easy to travel among these countries. But they're separate from the U.K.," Pelosi said. "Well, you can just get in the Chunnel, and you'll be in the U.K. Again, it's a decision they made. It has its ramifications. We'll see whether it's worth the trouble."

Pelosi said she wasn’t there to criticize President Donald Trump’s decisions, but emphasized that testing would be "the only way" to learn how the virus is spreading.

PolitiFact wanted to take a closer look at Pelosi’s comments about travel in Europe and how it relates to the details in Trump’s proclamation.

Trump’s travel ban

Trump’s proclamation seeks to restrict "all aliens who were physically present within the Schengen Area during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States."

U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents and their close relatives are exempt from the ban. So are numerous categories of other people.

The Schengen Area covers European states that agree to free movement among their nations without border checks. Countries in the zone include Austria, Belgium, and France (here’s the full list). The United Kingdom — England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — is not part of the Schengen Area. (Neither is the Republic of Ireland, a member of the European Union that borders Northern Ireland.)

Featured Fact-check

When Pelosi said "well, you can just get in the Chunnel, and you'll be in the U.K,," she was referring to the Channel Tunnel (Chunnel is the short name) that runs under the English Channel linking England and France. People move from one country to the other via trains.

However, even if someone gets from France to the United Kingdom, they can’t get on a plane right away and come to the United States, since Trump’s proclamation bars people who had been in Schengen Area two weeks before.

People from the United Kingdom who traveled to a Schengen Area state in the two weeks before their attempted travel to the United States would presumably be barred entry, unless they qualify for the exemptions.

Pelosi didn’t say that a person could cross the Chunnel and then immediately travel from the United Kingdom to the United States, said Henry V. Connelly, Pelosi’s deputy communications director.

"The point is that, with the ease of travel between the U.K. and the continent, there’s not a meaningful difference in risk of the community spread of coronavirus between the two — and thus, not much difference in the coronavirus risk from a person from the U.K. or from inside Schengen Area," Connelly said.

Our ruling

Speaking of Trump’s Europe travel restriction exempting the United Kingdom, Pelosi said, "Well you can just get into the Chunnel, and you’ll be in the U.K."

It isn't that easy to get around the restrictions by taking a train linking England and France. The travel ban applies to people who were in the Schengen Area 14 days before their attempted travel to the United States. So someone in France who traveled to England would not be immediately exempt from the restrictions. 

Pelosi’s statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context. We rate it Half True.

RELATED: Fact-checking Donald Trump’s mistakes about European travel due to coronavirus

Update March 15, 2020, 4:33 p.m. eastern time: After we published this report, Trump in a March 14 proclamation announced similar entry restrictions for people who were in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland 14 days prior to their attempted entry into the United States. That ban’s effective date is 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on March 16, 2020.

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Can Europeans get around Trump travel ban by going to England first? Not so simple

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