Trump bans travel from most of Europe for 30 days in bid to slow coronavirus

In Oval Office address, president lays out financial aid, health strategy for newly declared pandemic.

Image
Trump Oval Office
President Trump addresses the nation about coronavirus.
White House
Last Updated:
March 12, 2020 - 1:09am

President Trump took sweeping action Wednesday night to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak rattling the country, announcing a 30-day ban on incoming travel from most of Europe and emergency aid to help ease the financial impact.

Trump told the nation during an Oval Office address that he was committed to taking the "most aggressive and comprehensive effort to combat a virus" in history. 

Those measures included temporarily suspending all travel to the U.S. from everywhere in Europe, except for the United Kingdom. He said this policy would go into effect on Friday at midnight and remain in place for 30 days. He noted that Americans who have been properly screened will be exempt.

"And these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval. Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing," the president said, adding he may lift the restrictions early if situations improve.

President Trump later on Wednesday night said in a tweet "that trade will in no way be affected by the 30-day restriction on travel from Europe. The restriction stops people not goods."

Trump also said that he is ordering the Small Business Administration to provide loans in areas impacted by the virus, and he called for Congress to provide an additional $50 billion in funding that would include payroll tax relief.

“These low-interest loans will help small businesses overcome temporary economic disruptions caused by the virus,” the president explained.

Watch the president's address.

Trump said he will direct the Treasury Department to defer tax payments for some people and companies, interest and penalty free.

“I will never hesitate to take any necessary steps to protect the lives, health and safety of the American people. I will always put the well-being of America first,” the president said.

The stakes for the speech became apparent hours before it was delivered as the Dow Jones plummeted more than 1,400 points, Congress closed its doors to public tours of the Capitol, and the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic.

Even the guilty pleasures of American life were impacted when the NCAA announced its March Madness championship basketball tournament would be played in arenas without live audiences. The NBA announced it was suspending its season, while actor Tom Hanks announced he has tested positive for the virus.

Official Washington expected the president to lay out an emergency strategy to provide economic aid to industries and small businesses hurt by the slowdown while advancing containment, diagnosis and treatment of the outbreak.

Trump faced a dual challenge in calming America's jitters while demonstrating he was moving aggressively to contain and treat the outbreak. He set the stage on Twitter hours before the 9 p.m. EDT speech.

"I am fully prepared to use the full power of the Federal Government to deal with our current challenge of the CoronaVirus!" he tweeted.

And as he has often done throughout his presidency, Trump picked a fight with a news media, which he has portrayed as overly alarmist.

"The Media should view this as a time of unity and strength," the president also tweeted. "We have a common enemy, actually, an enemy of the World, the CoronaVirus. We must beat it as quickly and safely as possible. There is nothing more important to me than the life & safety of the United States!"

Concerns over the virus have been taking a toll on markets, sporting events and even the Democratic presidential primary, where Sunday night's debate between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders was moved to a no-audience format.