President Donald Trump on Wednesday night blamed the European Union for his decision to suspend all travels from Europe to the United States over the Coronavirus pandemic.
In a televised address at the White House, Trump alleged that the EU failed to take necessary steps to prevent the virus from entering its territory.
As a result, he said, a large number of new cases in the U.S. were by travellers from Europe.
The president said the new rules, aimed at keeping new cases from entering the country, would last for 30 days with effect from midnight on Friday.
However, he said the restrictions would not apply to the United Kingdom, which had 460 confirmed cases of the virus as at Wednesday night.
There were 1,135 confirmed cases of the virus and 38 deaths in the U.S. as of Wednesday.
The virus, otherwise known as COVID-19, originated from China in December, resulting in 118,326 cases and 4,4292 deaths worldwide as of Wednesday.
Trump said: “At the very start of the outbreak, we instituted sweeping travel restrictions on China and put in place the first federally mandated quarantine in over 50 years.
“We declared a public health emergency and issued the highest level of travel warning on other countries as the virus spread its horrible infection.
“We have seen dramatic fewer cases of the virus in the United States than are now present in Europe.
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“The European Union failed to take the same precautions and restrict travels from China and other hotspots.
“As a result, a large number of new clusters in the United States were ceded by travelers from Europe.”
The president explained that the travel suspension would also “apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo” coming into the U.S. from Europe.
The rules, he said, “will be adjusted, subject to conditions on the ground, and there will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings.”
Trump also announced plans to provide working Americans affected by the virus with financial relief to enable them to stay at home without fear of financial hardship.
“This will be targeted for workers who are ill, quarantined, or caring for others due to Coronavirus.
“I will be asking Congress to take legislative action to extend this relief,” he said.
The president announced other emergency actions, including providing low-interest loans to small businesses impacted by the disease to help them overcome attendant “temporary economic disruptions”.
“To this end, I am asking Congress to increase funding for this programme by an additional $50 billion.
“Using emergency authority, I will be instructing the Treasury Department to defer tax payments, without interest or penalties, for certain individuals and businesses negatively impacted.
“This action will provide more than $200 billion of additional liquidity to the economy.
“Finally, I am calling on Congress to provide Americans with immediate payroll tax relief. Hopefully they will consider this very strongly,” he added. (NAN)