Travelers from 26 European countries in the Schengen border-free travel area have been barred from entering the United states to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, or COVID-19.
“To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days. The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight,” President Donald Trump said from the Oval Office on Wednesday evening.
“These restrictions will be adjusted subject to conditions on the ground,” he said in his address to the nation.
The travel restriction does not apply to U.S. citizens who have undergone appropriate screenings, and to people from the United Kingdom. Also, no restrictions will be there on trade and cargo from Europe.
At the same time, Trump said the government is monitoring the situation in China and in South Korea. “And, as their situation improves, we will reevaluate the restrictions and warnings that are currently in place for a possible early opening”.
The President also announced a number of other actions Wednesday “to protect the health and well-being of all Americans” in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, which killed 38 and infected 1,135 other Americans.
Trump instructed the Small Business Administration to provide capital and liquidity to firms affected by the coronavirus.
Effective immediately, the SBA will begin providing low-interest economic loans in affected states and territories to help small businesses overcome temporary economic disruptions caused by the virus.
Trump asked Congress to increase funding for this program by an additional $50 billion.
He said that using emergency authority, he will be instructing the Treasury Department to defer tax payments, without interest or penalties, for certain individuals and businesses impacted by coronavirus. Trump believes this action will provide more than $200 billion of additional liquidity to the economy.
He called on Congress to approve his decision to provide Americans with immediate payroll tax relief.
Trump said that during his meeting with the leaders of health insurance industry earlier this week, they agreed to waive all copayments for coronavirus treatments, extend insurance coverage to these treatments, and to prevent surprise medical billing.
Trump reiterated that the risk from coronavirus is very low for the vast majority of Americans. “Young and healthy people can expect to recover fully and quickly if they should get the virus”. The highest risk is for elderly population with underlying health conditions, who must be “very, very careful,” according to Trump.
He strongly advised that nursing homes for the elderly suspend all medically unnecessary visits. In general, older Americans should also avoid nonessential travel in crowded areas.
The Trump administration is coordinating directly with communities with the largest outbreaks, and has issued guidance on school closures, social distancing, and reducing large gatherings.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Defense Secretary had imposed travel restrictions on all Defense personnel and their family members traveling to or from countries heavily infected by coronavirus for 60 days beginning Friday.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 as a pandemic.
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