In a rare prime-time Oval Office address, President Trump announced the U.S. is suspending air travel from Europe to the United States due to concerns around the spread of the coronavirus.
The suspension of passenger travel, which will go into effect Friday at midnight, will last 30 days and exclude travel from the U.K. The Department of Homeland Security later clarified in a statement that the ban does not include U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
“The European Union failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel from China and other hot spots,” the president said in his 10-minute address this evening. “As a result, a large number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travelers from Europe.”
Trump said he made the decision after consulting with “top government health professionals.” He added the restrictions will be adjusted “subject to conditions on the ground.”
Earlier today, the World Health Organization announced that the coronavirus outbreak is officially a pandemic with more than 113 countries reporting cases. More than 4,200 deaths have been reported, according to the WHO.
In his remarks, Trump also called for economic stimulus in several forms, including Small Business Administration low interest loans. He called on Congress to provide an additional $50 million in funding for those loans. And using his emergency authority, Trump will instruct the Treasury Department to defer tax payments without interest or penalties for individuals and businesses negatively affected. He also called on Congress to provide payroll tax relief. “Hopefully, they will consider this very strongly,” he said.
“This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history,” Trump 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.”
While it’s unclear how hard the travel suspension will hit the shipping and commercial airline industry, the virus has already hurt the air travel industry with estimated losses as high as $113 billion.