Immediately after his address to the nation, Trump's administration made clear that the Europe travel ban was not as drastic as the President stated.
US President Donald Trump has heartily criticised European leaders as he stopped travel from Europe to the US in a bid to contain the coronavirus (COVID-19) which has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is considering a similar measure to Trump with the number of coronavirus infections in Europe now higher than where the coronavirus originated, China. Australia extended its travel bans on China, Iran, South Korea and Italy for at least another week and is reviewing all travel to Europe.
Trump, sitting in The Oval Office, framed his announcement on live TV as a suspension of “all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days.”
Immediately after, his administration made clear it was not as drastic as President Trump stated with the travel ban only applying to foreign nationals and not to US citizens who had been screened before entering the country, mimicking restrictions he applied to China last month.
Trump was also forced to clarify he was not blocking goods from Europe, despite saying his ban would “apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo” across the Atlantic. He tweeted the ban would apply to “people not goods” after stock futures tumbled on the prospect of a trade freeze.
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 US S&P500 futures fell more than 3%, with Japan’s Nikkei and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 down more than 4% after Trump’s speech.
Trump’s announcement came after Italy, the worst-affected country in Europe, enacted the most severe controls on a Western nation since World War Two, shutting bars, hairdressers and restaurants along with other restrictions already in place.
The World Health Organization had earlier declared that Europe was the “new China” in terms of infection numbers and Trump was determined to bin the blame on Europe.
“We have seen dramatically fewer cases of the virus in the United States than are now present in Europe,” Trump said.
“The European Union failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel from China and other hot spots. As a result, a large number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travellers from Europe.”
Trump said the ban on travel from Europe would not include the United Kingdom. The Department of Homeland later clarified that the ban actually only applied to European countries in the Schengen zone: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
“We are at a critical time in the fight against the virus,” Trump said. “We made a life-saving move with early action on China. Now we must take the same action with Europe. We will not delay. 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 well-being of America first.”
Trump said he would seek to provide “unprecedented” action that would allow sick workers to stay home and still be paid, calling on Congress to provide payroll tax relief to workers.
“We must put politics aside, stop the partisanship, and unify together as one nation and one family,” Trump said. “Acting with compassion and love, we will heal the sick, care for those in need, help our fellow citizens, and emerge from this challenge stronger and more unified than ever before.”