U.S. president also unveils economic steps to help businesses impacted by spread of coronavirus
U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced that people from 26 European countries would be barred from traveling to the United States for a month in a bid to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Addressing his constituents from the Oval Office, Trump said the travel ban did not apply to those traveling from the United Kingdom and Ireland, nor would it impact any American citizens, who would still be permitted to return to their homeland.
Trump also announced several economic steps aimed at cushioning the blow to American businesses struggling with a sudden loss of consumer demand. “I am confident that by counting and continuing to take these tough measures, we will significantly reduce the threat to our citizens, and we will ultimately and expeditiously defeat this virus,” he said, adding on Twitter that the ban only applies on people and not trade and cargo.
But while Trump announced a raft of preventative measures, he stopped short of declaring a national emergency. According to observers, the intended goal of his nationally televised address was to rebuff criticism from Democrats that he was not moving quickly enough to provide coronavirus testing for Americans.
During his speech, the American president said Europe was partly to blame for the virus’ spread in the United States, where it has killed at least 37 people and infected 1,281. The announced travel restrictions were similar to what he declared on travel from China earlier this year when the illness was spreading wildly there. “A large number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travelers from Europe,” he said.
The list of countries barred from entry to the U.S. comprises 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, the Homeland Security Department said. The order does not apply to American citizens, legal permanent residents of the United States, immediate family members of U.S. citizens, and other individuals who are identified in the proclamation.
Trump said the restrictions would be adjusted in the days to come, subject to conditions on the ground.
The U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory on its website on Wednesday, advising U.S. citizens to reconsider any travel abroad due to the global impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
Meanwhile, Trump said he would take emergency action to provide financial relief for workers who are ill, quarantined or caring for others due to the illness. He said he was instructing the Treasury Department to defer tax payments without interest or penalties for certain businesses and individuals affected.
Separately, as Trump announced his restrictions, Hollywood star Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, announced they had tested positive for the coronavirus while visiting Australia.
Hanks is the first major Hollywood star to publicly state that he has the virus, which has sickened more than 125,000 people worldwide and killed more than 4,600. In a message to fans on Instagram, Hanks said the couple had felt slightly ill and wanted to get tested to “play things right.”
“Hello folks, Rita and I are down here in Australia. We felt a bit tired, like we had colds, and some body aches,” said the 63-year-old Oscar-winning star. “To play things right, as is needed in the world right now, we were tested for the coronavirus, and were found to be positive,” he said. “We Hanks will be tested, observed, and isolated for as long as public health and safety requires. We’ll keep the world posted and updated,” he added.