In a rare prime time oval office address, Pres. Donald Trump announced the United States would be suspending air travel from Europe to the United States due to concerns surrounding the spread of the coronavirus.
The suspension, which will go into effect Friday at midnight will last 30 days and would exclude the United Kingdom. The suspension would extend to cargo as well as leisure and recreational travel.
“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 remarks 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 COVID-19 is officially a pandemic with more than 113 countries reporting cases of coronavirus. 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 S>mall Business Administration low interest loans. He’s calling on Congress for an additional $50 million in funding for those loans. And using his emergency authority, Trump will be instructing the Treasury Department to defer tax payments without interest or penalties for individuals and businesses negatively impacted. He’s also calling 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, already the virus had wracked the air travel industry with estimated losses as high as $113 billion.