US President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday night that all flights from Europe to the United States will be temporarily halted for a period of 30 days, effective from Friday.
It is the most significant measure yet taken to stem the spread of the lethal coronavirus. However, Trump exempted flights from the United Kingdom.
Trump announcement came as the number of coronavirus cases in the US ballooned to 1,200, with at least 37 people succumbing to the deadly disease.
Forty two US States now have the virus, with Washington (366 cases), New York (216 cases), and California (133) being the hardest-hit.
Worldwide, 4,291 have died from the virus, most of them in China’s Hubei province where the COVID-19 originated.
“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,” Trump declared during a prime-time address to the nation from the Oval Office.
The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight, the president said, and will include exemptions for American who have undergone appropriate screenings.
“We are marshaling the full power of the federal government and the private sector to protect the American people. This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history,” he said.
Trump also called for sweeping economic stimulus action to prop up the American economy from the side effects of the virus.
“To ensure that working Americans impacted by the virus can stay home without fear of financial hardship I will soon be taking emergency action, which is unprecedented, to provide financial relief,” the president said.
He specifically ordered the Treasury Department to defer tax payments without interest or penalties for certain impacted individuals and businesses and called on Congress to provide “immediate” payroll tax relief, in addition to other measures.
He also advised Americans to follow the coronavirus guidelines given by the CDC.
“Wash your hands, clean often used surfaces, cover your face and mouth if you sneeze or cough. Most of all, if you’re sick or not feeling well, stay home,” Trump said.