WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday the United States would ban all travel from Europe for 30 days to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
“To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days. The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight,” Trump said in an address to the nation.
However, he specified that the restriction would “not apply to the United Kingdom.”
Trump added that the prohibitions would also “apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo,” and “various other things as we get approval.”
The president has taken fire for what critics say is a slow response to the spread of the virus, which has claimed more than 4,500 lives worldwide.
Trump, who said there would be exemptions for Americans who undergo appropriate testing, has repeatedly played down the threat, initially claiming that only a handful of Americans were at risk.
He added that Europe saw more cases because governments failed to stop travel from China, where the COVID-19 epidemic began.
Donald Trump also announced measures meant to shore up the economy reeling from the coronavirus outbreak, while simultaneously downplaying the situation.
While he touted the strong US economy, Trump urged Congress “to provide Americans with immediate payroll tax relief” to help counteract the impact of the epidemic that has disrupted businesses, especially in the travel industry, and sent Wall Street plunging.
“Hopefully they will consider this very strongly,” he said in an address to the nation.
He also said he would instruct the US Treasury to defer tax payments “for certain individuals and businesses negatively impacted” by the epidemic, a move he said would inject more than $200 billion of liquidity to the American economy.
Trump spoke after Wall Street suffered another bruising day that saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumble further, reaching 20 percent below its peak and sending it into a “bear market.”