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Donald Trump announces 30 day European travel ban to stop coronavirus spread
12 March 2020, 01:45 | Updated: 12 March 2020, 07:09
Donald Trump has announced he is suspending travel to the US from all European countries, except the UK, to combat the spread of coronavirus.
Speaking in an announcement from the Oval Office, Mr Trump blamed the European Union for not acting quickly enough to address the outbreak of the virus and saying US clusters were "seeded" by European travellers.
The president said the US would monitor the situation to determine if travel could be reopened earlier, but it will currently last for 30 days.
The travel ban is only for mainland Europe and does not include the UK.
The move marks a major change in position from the US President, who has previously said coronavirus is "just like the flu".
Mr Trump said "we are marshalling the full power" of the government and private sector to protect the American people.
He also announced the US would defer tax payments due to the government for some impacted filers for three months amid measures to lessen the financial impact of virus.
Mr Trump had been reportedly considering new travel advisories, a national disaster declaration and a delay in the tax filing deadline.
Congress, for its part, unveiled a multi-billion dollar aid package that was expected to be voted on by the House as soon as Thursday.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 to be a pandemic, as worldwide cases soared above 114,000.
In the UK, eight people have died.
The mounting effort to contain the virus and financial fall-out intensified on a gruelling day.
Communities cancelled public events nationwide, universities moved to cancel in-person classes, and families grappled with the impact of disruptions to public schools.
The number of confirmed cases of the infection topped 1,000.As government officials warned that the outbreak in the US would only worsen, the Capitol was set to halt public tours of the building as the shifting developments raised questions, urgency and a new level of unease.
"I can say we will see more cases, and things will get worse than they are right now," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said in testimony before the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
He said the virus was "10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu".
In a week of mixed messages and false starts, Washington suddenly seemed poised to act.
"I am fully prepared to use the full power of the Federal Government to deal with our current challenge of the CoronaVirus!" Mr Trump tweeted before a meeting with bankers in which he offered assurances that "we are going to get the problem solved".
"Now we're hitting a patch and we're going to have to do something with respect to getting rid of this virus as quickly as possible and as safely as possible."