WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced a 30-day suspension of all travel from Europe to the United States in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus — ratcheting up his administrations response after battling criticism for previously downplaying the crisis.
In a rare address from the Oval Office, Trump said the European Union had “failed to take the same precautions” as the U.S. had implemented to contain the coronavirus outbreak, prompting his decision to temporarily suspend travel between the two continents. The restrictions will not apply to the United Kingdom, where the number of confirmed cases topped 400 on Wednesday.
“We made a life-saving move with early action on China, now we must take the same action with Europe,” Trump said in an 11-minute televised address, referencing his February decision to restrict travel from China. “Smart action today will prevent the spread of the virus tomorrow.”
Trump blamed travelers from Europe for bringing coronavirus to the U.S., which currently has over 1,000 coronavirus cases.
“A number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travelers from Europe,” he said.
The Department of Homeland Security later clarified that that the restrictions only prohibited foreign nationals traveling from Europe to enter the U.S.
Trump also said he would “soon be taking an emergency action” to provide financial cushion to business owners and individuals hit by the coronavirus, including directing the Small Business Administration to provide emergency capital to impacted companies. Additionally, Trump said he will defer tax payments for certain entities that have been affected by the virus.
The president asked Congress to include a paid sick-leave mandate and payroll tax cut in a stimulus package that is currently being ironed out on Capitol Hill. While lawmakers have coalesced around the sick-leave proposal, the payroll tax cut has been a harder sell.
The president was careful to avoid dire language as he talked about the economy, which he and congressional Republicans have routinely cited as a major accomplishment as they campaign for reelection.
“This is not a financial crisis, this is just a temporary moment of time that we will overcome as a nation and as a world,” Trump said, adding that the U.S. economy is well-positioned to withstand the impacts of the virus because “our banks and financial institutions are fully capitalized and incredibly strong.”
Trumps Oval Office address marked a dramatic shift in messaging for a president who, as recently as Monday, compared the rapidly-spreading virus to the common flu and tweeted that “nothing is shut down, life and the economy go on.”
The remark was the latest in a series of inaccurate comments Trump has made about the virus as the number of confirmed cases has climbed over the past two weeks. Often, his public statements have contradicted top U.S. officials and Cabinet secretaries who have encouraged Americans — particularly older adults and those with chronic health conditions — to take the outbreak seriously.
On Wednesday, Trump said all elderly individuals should cancel “nonessential travel in crowded areas” to reduce their risk of exposure to the virus.
“Every community faces different risks and it is critical for you to follow the guidelines of your local officials,” he said.
The presidents warning came hours after two U.S. officials testified on Capitol Hill that the worst is yet to come, and suggested that Americans should brace for further disruptions to their daily lives such as school closures, travel bans and cancelations of large gatherings.
“We have got to assume it is going to get worse and worse and worse,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the Trump administrations coronavirus task force, at a congressional hearing earlier Wednesday.
Faucis testimony was validated hours later when the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, triggering a swift decline in U.S. markets and prompting Trump to schedule his televised address.
In Europe, Italy has suffered the most with over 10,000 cases. The country suspended most of its commercial activity on Monday as it essentially asked its population to shelter in place. Elsewhere in Europe, France, Spain and Germany all have over 1,000 cases.
China, where the disease started, remains the hardest hit, with over 80,000 cases and upwards of 3,000 deaths. South Korea and Iran have also seen massive outbreaks.
Hours after the pandemic declaration, Trump announced his plans to address the nation about the deadly virus — a move that put some officials inside the administration on edge, given the presidents attention-grabbing comments so far.
One administration official suggested Trump could “kiss a second term goodbye” if he failed to strike a more serious tone about the coronavirus outbreak that has already infected several hundred Americans and could impact a significant chunk of the U.S. population, according to epidemiologists who have been closely tracking the virus.
Even before Trump addressed the nation, his decision to deliver an Oval Office address alerted aides and lawmakers to a possible change in his approach.
One White House official said the presidents concerns about containment and public safety rose significantly on Tuesday, when several elite colleges — including Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — announced that classes would be moved online and students should refrain from returning to campus at the conclusion of spring break. News coverage of the nationwide quarantine in Italy, where the virus has continued to spread uncontrollably and overwhelmed the countrys health care system, also unnerved the president, the same official said.
As concerns about public safety and worsening economic conditions accelerated inside the WestRead More – Source