President Donald Trump announced a strong but necessary step on Wednesday to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in the United States.
On live television, the President said he will be banning all European travels to the US for 30 days, starting Friday midnight, in an effort to prevent more cases of the infection from entering the US soil.
“The European Union failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel from China and other hotspots. As a result, a large number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travelers from Europe. After consulting with our top government health professionals, I have decided to take several strong but necessary actions to protect the health and wellbeing of all Americans,” President Trump said in his almost 10-minute address to the nation.
“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,” he added, noting that the said restrictions will be adjusted subject to conditions on the ground.
Europe in Chaos
Next to mainland China, Italy is currently the worst-hit country with more than 10,000 cases and at least 163 reported deaths. France has 2,281 cases as of this writing, while Spain has 2,277 according to the World Health Organization data and Germany recorded at least 1,966.
Other European countries with Covid-19 cases include Switzerland (652), Norway (636), Denmark (615), Netherlands (503), Sweden (500), Belgium (314) and Austria (302).
“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 wellbeing of America first,” President Trump said.
“I am confident that by counting and continuing to take these tough measures, we will significantly reduce the threat to our citizens.”
In the US, there are at least 1,336 cases with 38 recorded deaths, while globally, there are currently 124,519 cases and 4,607 deaths.
The President’s announcement comes hours after the WHO declared Covid-19 a global pandemic.
The new travel restriction to the European Union does not apply to the United Kingdom who has at least 460 cases.
“There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings, 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,” President Trump said.
Meanwhile, existing travel bans from China — where the virus originated — and South Korea will remain in effect but the US government will “reevaluate the restrictions and warnings” to consider a “possible early opening” as the situation improves.
Other Measures in the Works
In his speech, President Trump also said he will be asking Congress to consider “immediate payroll tax relief.” It would eliminate the 6.2% tax on an employee’s salary up to $137,000 if they receive a paycheck, and also the amount matched by employers to fund Social Security.
He also announced that insurance companies will waive all copayments for coronavirus testing and treatments.
“I met with the leaders of the health insurance industry who have agreed to waive all copayments for coronavirus treatments, extend insurance coverage to these treatments, and to prevent surprise medical billing,” the President said.
The President also announced he will direct the Small Business Administration to provide low-interest loans to small businesses negatively affected by the coronavirus disease — and asked Congress to authorize another $50 billion for this program aside from the $8.3 billion initially redirected for government efforts to fight the coronavirus.
“For the vast majority of Americans: The risk is very, very low. 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. The elderly population must be very, very careful,” President Trump said.
“Put Politics Aside”
Meanwhile, the President called on both aisles to unite and “put politics aside” in the fight against coronavirus — assuring Americans that the United States is ready to tackle the rising threat of the coronavirus.
“We have the best economy, the most advanced healthcare, and the most talented doctors, scientists, and researchers anywhere in the world. We are all in this together. We must put politics aside, stop the partisanship, and unify together as one nation and one family,” President Trump said.
“Each of us has a role to play in defeating this virus,” he added. “Wash your hands, clean often-used surfaces, cover your face and mouth if you sneeze or cough, and most of all, if you are sick or not feeling well, stay home.”
“The virus will not have a chance against us,” President Trump said. “No nation is more prepared or more resilient than the United States.”