Washington: In an unprecedented move, President Donald Trump announced the US will suspend all passenger travel from Europe, except the UK, on Friday for the next 30 days to stop the spread of coronavirus pandemic that has claimed over 4,500 lives, including 37 in America, and sent global markets into a tailspin.
In a televised address to the nation from his Oval Office in the White House on Wednesday, President Trump said the new restrictions will come into effect from Friday midnight and there will be exemptions for Americans returning to the US after undergoing multiple screenings.
"To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe. The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight," he said.
Trump said the European Union had "failed to take the same precautions" as his administration had implemented to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
The president said he was monitoring the situation in China and South Korea, and asked citizens to suspend all non-essential travels. He urged them to adopt best hygiene, wash their hands and stay away from large gatherings to reduce the chance of infection.
"This is not a financial crisis. This is just a temporary moment in time that we will overcome as a nation and a world," Trump said.
"We are marshalling the full power of the federal government and the private sector to protect the American people," he said.
Global stocks and oil plunged immediately after Trump's announcement, triggering a flurry of panic selling that sent American stock futures into a tailspin.
Dow (INDU) futures plunged more than 1,100 points, or 4.73 per cent. S&P 500 (SPX) futures fell 4.6 per cent and Nasdaq (COMP) futures were down 5 per cent, and Japan's Nikkei and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 down more than 4 per cent.
Oil prices, which crashed at the start of this week on the prospect of a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, plunged about six per cent on Thursday.
International benchmark Brent crude was down 6.6 per cent at USD 33.43 a barrel, while US marker West Texas Intermediate fell the same degree to USD 30.81.
The president announced that his administration will begin extending loans to small businesses who will be affected by the coronavirus slowdown.
He was askew for payroll tax relief and said some tax filings will be delayed to help provide extra liquidity.
"We are all in this together. We must put politics aside, stop the partisanship, and unify together as one nation and one family. As history has proven time and time again, Americans always rise to the challenge and overcome adversity," Trump said.
"Our future remains brighter than anyone can imagine. 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," he said.
"We have the best economy, the most advanced healthcare, and the most talented doctors, scientists, and researchers anywhere in the world," Trump said, asserting that no nation is more prepared or more resilient than the US.
The president said he took the decision to suspend travel from Europe to the US after consulting with top government health professionals, to protect all citizens from the coronavirus.
The deadly virus that first originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December last year has claimed over 4,500 lives and infected more than 124,000 people across 107 countries and territories.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) characterised the outbreak as a pandemic on Wednesday. China remains the hardest-hit with over 80,000 infections and 3,000 deaths while 37 people have died and 1,300 infected in the US.
Over a dozen States in the US have declared a state of emergency with cities and counties announcing to take sweeping measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The US State Department on Wednesday advised Americans to reconsider foreign travel in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
"The Department of State advises US citizens to reconsider travel abroad due to the global impact of COVID-19," as the illness is known, it said in a statement.
Giving details of the travel ban, Department of Homeland Security in a statement said Trump signed a Presidential proclamation, which suspends the entry of most foreign nationals who have been in certain European countries at any point during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the US.
These countries, known as the Schengen area, include Austria, Belgium, the 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.
This does not apply to legal permanent residents, (generally) immediate family members of US citizens, and other individuals who are identified in the proclamation, it said.
In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, people have been running to grocery stores to stock supplies of essential items, while office goers are trying to do teleworking.
Several public events, including those related to sports, have been cancelled, and several schools and universities have either shut down or considering closing.
In a letter, several senators urged Trump to immediately consider disaster declarations that allow FEMA to utilise USD 40 plus billion disaster relief fund to aid State and local government's responding to the outbreak.