International travelers at SFO scrambling to get home before European travel ban takes effect

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Melanie Schriver and her family are scrambling to get home to Germany after learning that their Saturday night flight was canceled. They got a text message from the airline to re-book their tickets.

She called the airline, but couldn't get through.

Schriver says the airline's website wasn't working either.

"I even called the travel agency in Germany and they say, 'We cannot reach anybody.' They say they are coming up with an emergency plan right now, but that's all they know," said Schriver.

Much of the confusion comes from President Donald Trump announcing new travel restriction for foreigners who visited the Schengen Zone 14 days prior to coming to the U.S. The Schengen Zone is made up of the 26 European countries that share an open border.

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It's an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19 from a part of that part of the world that has highest number of COVID-19 cases, outside of China.

The restrictions apply to only to flights into the United States. It does not apply to U.S. citizen, legal residents or their families. The ban lasts for 30 days, but could be reinstated. It goes into effect Friday at midnight EST.

Flights arriving from Europe will be directed to one of 15 U.S. airports.

That list has not been announced as of Thursday afternoon, but officials at San Francisco International Airport think SFO will be one of those airports, since the CDC is already one site since the Wuhan outbreak.

Thomas De Clerk and his five colleges came to the U.S. on a business trip from Belgium, which was canceled because of the coronavirus.

De Clerk isn't surprised to learn of the new restriction.

"Not really surprised because back in Europe, especially Italy, we are from Belgium, (there are) a lot of stronger restrictions are going on," said De Clerk.

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The group was able to get buy new tickets, paying a little extra to change their flight, but they want to get home as soon as possible.

"For us right now, it is important that if something happens, we are at home, that we are closer to the people that we love. We are not taking our chances, but we are not panicking either," said Bruno Ver Bruggen.

European passengers may not be the only ones facing a travel ban in the United States.

On Thursday morning, President Trump announced that domestic travel restrictions are a possibility if any "hot zones" develop related to the coronavirus.

"Other countries are cracking down, some people seem to think it's a good idea, but I don't know how necessary it is," says Cam Holder, a Vallejo resident, who was on his way to Charlotte. "But if it going to keep people safe, you know, I am all for that."
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