Coronavirus: Trump bans travel from Europe to the US but exempts UK

'The virus will not have a chance against us,' the president tells the nation in an address from the Oval Office

John T. Bennett
Thursday 12 March 2020 02:06 GMT
Coronavirus: Trump suspends Europe-US travel

Donald Trump avoided declaring a national emergency over the coronavirus outbreak but is shutting down all travel from Europe – with the exception of the UK and Ireland – and going back on his own advice by urging sick people to “stay home”.

In only his second presidential address from the Oval Office in three years, Mr Trump called for national unity as he laid out a number of steps he is taking or asking Congress to take to defeat Covid-19.

Describing the disease as a "foreign virus", Mr Trump announced a halt on all travel from the 26 countries in the Schengen open borders area of the EU, starting from 20 March.

Lauding his own "early, intense action", including the decision to ban all travel from China, the president boasted that the US has “fewer cases than in Europe”.

“The EU failed to take the same precautions,” he said.

The travel ban is just one part of a strategy laid out by the president to halt the spread of the virus, and prevent a complete economic crash. The executive branch and executive office of the president have vast emergency and national security powers, which he is tapping into as he essentially tries to put a blanket on a growing fire.

He backtracked on one of his most controversial statements since the outbreak became serious a few weeks ago, when he several times said ill workers should clock in despite his own public health officials urging them to stay at home.

Mr Trump’s strategy is now to contain the spread of the virus, as he essentially described a plan to keep people spread out so infected individuals do not pass it on; he pleaded with Americans to avoid large crowds and suggested large events be cancelled.

“If we are vigilant and we can reduce the chance of infection [and] impede the transmission of the virus,” Mr Trump said. “The virus will not have a chance against us.”

A White House release made clear that American citizens would still be able to return home once the European travel ban sets in, albeit to a "limited" number of airports with screening facilities.

The European ban would also include exemptions for items being traded between the US and EU countries – but some final decisions have yet to be made, Mr Trump said.

“Anything coming from Europe is what we’re discussing,” the president said, signalling to EU officials he is interested in cutting a deal. He later clarified on Twitter that "trade will in no way be affected by the 30-day restriction on travel from Europe. The restriction stops people not goods."

Additionally, he announced what he described as "several strong but necessary" steps, including small business assistance he said will inject extra "liquidity" into the US economy amid a stock market crash and worries about a recession.

Mr Trump is banking on a strong economy to help him win a second term.

He all but challenged the virus to a fight, bragging that the US has the "greatest economy anywhere in the world – by far" and when he said America's "vast economy prosperity gives us resources" to beat coronavirus.

To keep it that way as he hopes warming temperatures and efforts to slow its spread will make a major difference, he announced he is taking "emergency action to provide financial relief" to workers who are sick, caring for a sick loved one or in quarantine.

He also is asking Congress to pass legislation that would extend that tax relief to hourly employees.

"This is not a financial crisis, just a temporary moment in time that we will overcome," Mr Trump said.

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And despite himself lashing out at Democrats earlier in the day on Twitter, he called for unity in the conclusion of his address, saying: "We are all in this together, stop the partisanship and unify together as one nation and one family."

In a final sign the president is taking the virus more seriously, the White House issued a statement saying Mr Trump has cancelled a planned trip later this week to Colorado and Nevada – two states he wants to win to secure a second term – "out of an abundance of caution."

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