At midnight Monday, the United States will implement a new slate of travel restrictions to combat coronavirus spread, limiting transit from the United Kingdom and Ireland, following a weekend of confusion and frustration at select airports nationwide. This time, though, officials say they'll be better prepared.
A flurry of images on Saturday showed passengers squeezed together and waiting to get through US customs, after returning from overseas. Passengers shared stories of hours-long backups, inconsistent screenings, and waiting shoulder-to-shoulder to be processed through.
Wait times have since decreased. But as the Trump administration remedies the issues raised over the weekend, it's on the cusp of putting in place more restrictions that could also sow confusion.
What we know: To avoid the backups that occurred over the weekend, US Customs and Border Protection is upping its staff at airports and adding more people on shifts. CBP has also streamlined the process, in coordination with others involved in screening, in order to expedite the processing and screening capacity to avoid long wait times.
The enhanced screenings are part of an administration effort to handle the coronavirus pandemic. Countries around the world have shut down their borders and placed increased restrictions on movement and social gatherings.
The Trump administration began by restricting travel from China, then Iran. Last week, Trump extended those restrictions to include certain European countries, effective Friday night. The United Kingdom and Ireland were initially excluded, but limits for those countries take effect Monday at midnight. US citizens, green card holders and their family members are exempt from the restrictions.
What's happening Monday night: Starting at 11:59 p.m. ET Monday, people returning home from Ireland and the United Kingdom will also undergo enhanced entry at the same 13 airports, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Passengers coming in from Europe's Schengen Area—26 countries stretching from Iceland to Greece—have been funneled to the airports where they undergo enhanced screening. They first go through customs, then are screened by Homeland Security medical contractors, and in the event, someone exhibits symptoms or other red flags, passengers will be referred to CDC personnel on site.
Officials expect changes made to the system and collaboration with the airline industry will put CBP, and the agencies working alongside them, in a position to respond to new arrivals.
The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to requests for comment.