In dramatic step, Trump restricts travel from Europe to US to fight coronavirus
WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Wednesday imposed sweeping restrictions to prevent people from 26 European countries from travelling to the United States for a month as he responded to mounting pressure to take action against the spread of the coronavirus.
The president took the dramatic step in a somber Oval Office speech as he battled to address the health and economic shocks to Americans from the sometimes fatal virus and responded to criticism he has not taken the threat seriously enough.
The travel order does not apply to the United Kingdom and Ireland, and does not apply to American citizens.
Trump also announced several economic steps aimed at cushioning the blow to American businesses struggling with a sudden loss of consumer demand.
“This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history,” he said.
“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.”
After triggering confusion by suggesting that trade and cargo from Europe would also be banned, Trump was forced to clarify his statement with a tweet moments after the speech that trade will in no way be affected by the travel restriction.
“The restriction stops people not goods,” he said in the tweet.
Trump, whose re-election bid on Nov. 3 could hinge on how well he responds to a crisis that has suddenly enveloped his presidency, stopped short of declaring a national emergency.
The president used the Oval Office for the speech, a venue he has largely avoided in favour of free-wheeling, unscripted remarks elsewhere, and he did not appear entirely comfortable in the setting, reading through his speech quickly and uttering an expletive in an off-mic moment.
His goal was to show he is on top of the situation after facing criticism from Democrats for not moving quickly enough to provide coronavirus testing for Americans.
But he failed to mention other pressing issues such as accelerating the production of testing kits and face masks.
‘European precautions
not enough’
Trump pulled no punches in saying 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. - Reuters