Trump blames the EU for not acting quickly enough and claims US coronavirus clusters were “seeded” by European travellers.
Trump said the ban would apply only to countries in the Schengen economic and travel zone, and that the United Kingdom and Ireland would be exempted. He also later clarified in a tweet that cargo and goods would not be affected by the ban.
The US president said the sanctions will come into effect from midnight – but will not apply to flights from the UK.
In a rare address from the Oval Office, Trump said the European Union had “failed to take the same precautions” as the U.S. had implemented to contain the coronavirus outbreak, prompting his decision to temporarily suspend travel between the two continents. The restrictions will not apply to the United Kingdom, where the number of confirmed cases topped 400 on Wednesday.
“We made a life-saving move with early action on China, now we must take the same action with Europe,” Trump said in an 11-minute televised address, referencing his February decision to restrict travel from China. “Smart action today will prevent the spread of the virus tomorrow.”
Trump said: “We made a lifesaving move with early action on China. Now we must take the same action with Europe.”
The president said the US would monitor the situation to determine if travel could be reopened earlier.
A Homeland Security spokesman said: These countries, known as the Schengen Area, include: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.”
Emergency action” to provide financial cushion
Trump also said he would “soon be taking an emergency action” to provide financial cushion to business owners and individuals hit by the coronavirus, including directing the Small Business Administration to provide emergency capital to impacted companies. Additionally, Trump said he will defer tax payments for certain entities that have been affected by the virus.
Hoping to get the payroll tax cut approved by both Republicans and Democrats, and please remember, very important for all countries & businesses to know that trade will in no way be affected by the 30-day restriction on travel from Europe. The restriction stops people not goods.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 12, 2020
The president asked Congress to include a paid sick-leave mandate and payroll tax cut in a stimulus package that is currently being ironed out on Capitol Hill. While lawmakers have coalesced around the sick-leave proposal, the payroll tax cut has been a harder sell.
The president was careful to avoid dire language as he talked about the economy, which he and congressional Republicans have routinely cited as a major accomplishment as they campaign for reelection.
“This is not a financial crisis, this is just a temporary moment of time that we will overcome as a nation and as a world,” Trump said, adding that the U.S. economy is well-positioned to withstand the impacts of the virus because “our banks and financial institutions are fully capitalized and incredibly strong.”
Trump’s Oval Office address marked a dramatic shift in messaging for a president who, as recently as Monday, compared the rapidly-spreading virus to the common flu and tweeted that “nothing is shut down, life and the economy go on.”
The remark was the latest in a series of inaccurate comments Trump has made about the virus as the number of confirmed cases has climbed over the past two weeks. Often, his public statements have contradicted top U.S. officials and Cabinet secretaries who have encouraged Americans — particularly older adults and those with chronic health conditions — to take the outbreak seriously.