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Trump Suspends All Travel From Europe For 30 Days To Combat COVID-19

President Trump speaks during a meeting with bank executives at the White House on Wednesday. He is giving an address on the coronavirus Wednesday evening.

Updated at 10:12 p.m. ET

President Trump announced a total ban on travel from European countries to the United States for the next 30 days, beginning on Friday at midnight, in a bid “to keep new cases” of coronavirus “from entering our shores.” The restrictions, he said late Wednesday, do not apply to travelers from the United Kingdom.

Trump also announced economic measures that he said would help the country overcome “temporary economic disruptions” caused by the disease.

The president’s primetime remarks Wednesday cap a concerted effort by the White House to calm a public made jittery by the rapid global spread of the disease and the concomitant economic turmoil. Indeed, globally, the number of cases of coronavirus has exceeded 125,000, with more than 1,000 of those reported in the United States, where the outbreak is expected to get worse.

Trump’s address followed a Wednesday announcement by the World Health Organization, which classified the outbreak a pandemic. In Washington, lawmakers scrambled to find ways to contain the economic fallout of the fast-spreading virus.

“This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history,” Trump said Wednesday night.

“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 added.

Trump explained the travel restrictions will be adjusted “subject to conditions on the ground.” He added that the government will make travel exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screening.

During his address, the president said that the prohibitions would apply to trade and cargo from Europe, but a White House official subsequently clarified that the new ban applies only to travelers — not goods and cargo.

Trump attempted to assuage concerns that fears about the virus were spreading to the stock market, which has been battered in recent weeks. On Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average slumped 5.9%. The slide moved the market decline from a correction to a bear market, which traders usually define as a drop of 20% or more from a recent high point. It marks the first time since the 2008 financial crisis that the Dow dipped into bear market territory.

“This is not a financial crisis,” Trump said. “This is just a temporary moment of time that we will overcome together as a nation and as a world.”

In an attempt to ease the financial strain on working Americans and small businesses, the president offered a handful of proposals he said would be presented to Congress in the coming days. These include a $50 billion program to provide low-interest loans to small businesses affected by the coronavirus.

“Using emergency authority, I will be instructing the Treasury Department to defer tax payments without interests or penalties for certain individuals and businesses negatively impacted,” he added.

That step, he said, would provide more $200 billion of additional liquidity to the economy.

Trump also said he would take emergency action to provide financial relief to people who need to stay home because they are sick, quarantined, or caring for others. There were no details immediately available on that measure.

As the coronavirus increasingly disrupts daily American life — from school cancellations to companies pushing employees to work from home to cities banning large public gatherings — the Trump administration and Congress were rushing to unveil countermeasures.

Trump said this week proposed payroll tax relief for hourly wage workers to shore up the economy, but faced stiff resistance from congressional Democrats, who argue that a payroll tax break would help the wealthiest Americans the most. Democrats are pushing paid sick leave, expanded unemployment assistance and food assistance.

At a meeting on Wednesday with bankers about how the outbreak is affecting the financial sector, Trump, who has repeatedly downplayed the severity of the coronavirus, suggested that the U.S. was blinded by how rapidly the virus is spreading.

“We’re having to fix a problem that four weeks ago nobody thought would be a problem,” Trump said.

Whatever shape the economic response takes, the nation’s top infectious disease experts are cautioning that the number of cases and fatalities linked to the coronavirus in the U.S. are expected to keep rising.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said federal officials are working to stay ahead of the virus, but efforts have been complicated by the number of infected people entering the country after visiting other parts of the world.

“I can say we will see more cases, and things will get worse than they are right now,” Fauci told the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Wednesday.

While more than 80% of confirmed coronavirus cases are mild and the risk remains low for those who are young and healthy, Fauci emphasized just how dangerous the coronavirus can be for the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.

The seasonal flu, Fauci said, has a mortality rate of about 0.1%, compared with the coronavirus fatality rate, which is around 1% when all available data are analyzed.

In other words, Fauci said: “It is 10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu.”

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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