Donald Trump has suspended flights from mainland Europe to the US in what is one of the largest ever bans in aviation history and one which is expected to cause further damage to airlines on the continent.
In a public address made from the Oval Office, President Trump said the travel ban will last for 30 days and will not apply to the UK or to some Americans who have “undergone appropriate screenings”.
Airlines have already slashed flights between Italy and the US after the country emerged as the European epicentre of the virus.
But Trump’s ban is expected to hit legacy carriers like Lufthansa and Air France-KLM, which dominate routes between mainland Europe and the US.
Europe’s largest airlines have already grounded hundreds of planes, including A380 fleets, because of dwindling demand. Germany's Lufthansa Group went as far as asking its Government for assistance as part of a number of measures to save cash.
Analysts also think there could be chaos at European airports as passengers make a last-minute dash to get to the US before the ban comes into force.
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic will continue to fly between the UK and US. Some flights from Europe will be permitted to operate to a select few US airports so that US citizens can get back into the country.
Mr Trump initially said that the ban would also "apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo" but later tweeted to say that “trade will in no way be affected”.
He said: “We made a lifesaving move with early action on China. Now we must take the same action with Europe.”
US authorities will monitor the situation to see where the ban can be lifted early, according to the president.
The countries impacted include those in the Schengen Area, identified as: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.