Trump slaps limits on travel from Europe to US for 30 days

(AP) - President Donald Trump says he is sharply restricting travel from Europe to the U.S. for 30 days beginning Friday night as he seeks to combat a viral pandemic.

President Donald Trump speaks in an address to the nation from the Oval Office at the White House about the coronavirus Wednesday, March, 11, 2020, in Washington. (Source: Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

Trump made the announcement Wednesday in an Oval Office address to the nation, blaming the European Union for not acting quickly enough to address the novel coronavirus and saying U.S. clusters were “seeded” by European travelers.

Trump says the restrictions won’t apply to the United Kingdom and the U.S. will monitor the situation to determine if travel can be reopened earlier.

The restrictions also do not apply to legal permanent residents of the U.S. or their families when they are returning from Europe. It does not apply to U.S. citizens coming back from Europe, as Trump acknowledged.

As well, it apparently does not apply to Ireland, Romania, Croatia, Ukraine and several other European states. The proclamation released by the White House says the travel ban will affect the 26 European states in what’s known as the Schengen Area.

The White House has also cancelled a planned trip by the president to Nevada and Colorado this week, “out of an abundance of caution.”

Trump says “we are marshalling the full power” of the government and private sector to protect the American people.

Congress, for its part, has unveiled a multibillion-dollar aid package that is expected to be voted on by the House as soon as Thursday.

Trump announced he will instruct the Treasury Department to allow individuals and businesses negatively affected by the coronavirus to defer their tax payments beyond the April 15 filing deadline. It would apply to taxpayers and businesses who have suffered adverse effects from the spreading virus.

Following Trump’s announcement Wednesday, the U.S. Department of State advised U.S. citizens to reconsider travel abroad due to the global impact of COVID-19.

Many areas throughout the world are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and taking action that may limit traveler mobility, including quarantines and border restrictions. Even countries, jurisdictions, or areas where cases have not been reported may restrict travel without notice.

The number of confirmed cases of the infection tops 1,000 in the U.S. and the World Health Organization has declared the global crisis is now a pandemic.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said via Twitter that COVID-19 was the first type of coronavirus to cause a pandemic. He said describing the ongoing situation as one did not change the organization’s assessment of the threat, or what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do either.

“Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly," Tedros said. “It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death.”

The World Health Organization considers a pandemic the worldwide spread of a new disease for which most people do not have immunity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said pandemic diseases are new global viruses able to easily infect people and “spread from person to person in an efficient and sustained way.”

The assessment comes as Italy is weighing even tighter restrictions on daily life and has announced billions in financial relief to cushion economic shocks from the coronavirus.

Premier Giuseppe Conte says he will consider requests to toughen an already extraordinary lockdown.

The hardest-hit region of Lombardy is pushing for a shutdown of nonessential businesses and public transportation on top of travel and social restrictions.

The death toll in Italy has risen to 631.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has told a U.S. House committee that the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. is going to get worse.

CDC Director Robert Redfield reports that U.S. virus deaths now up to 31 and confirmed cases are over 1,000.

Fauci told the the House Oversight and Reform Committee in Washington on Wednesday that “I can say we will see more cases and things will get worse than they are right now.”

He says how much worse it gets depends on two things: the ability of U.S. authorities to curtail the influx of travelers who may be bringing the disease into the country and the ability of states and communities to contain local outbreaks in this country.

Asked if the worst is yet to come, Fauci said: “Yes, it is.”

The first cases in Michigan were announced Tuesday, and the first cases were made public in New Mexico on Wednesday. All but 10 states have now reported at least one person with the illness.

U.S. lawmakers and health officials have set up containment zones and quarantine areas and sought to limit contact with those who might be infected.

Governors and other leaders are scrambling to slow the spread of the virus, banning large gatherings, enforcing quarantines and calling National Guard troops in to help.

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser has declared a state of emergency as the number of identified coronavirus cases in the nation's capital reaches 10.

Officials are recommending that gatherings of 1,000 or more people be postponed or canceled.

The announcements signals a major escalation in the District of Columbia's response to the spread of the virus.

By declaring a state of emergency, Bowser has the authority to order medical quarantines, request federal assistance and take steps to stem price gouging for critical supplies.

U.S. health officials are now telling doctors and nurses that surgical masks are OK to wear when treating patients who may be sick from the new coronavirus — a decision made in reaction to shortages of more protective respirator masks. The CDC decision was prompted by reports of dwindling supplies of respirators.

Vast areas of U.S. life are being impacted by the spreading coronavirus outbreak, from bans on large public gatherings to empty stadiums at sports games.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced a ban on large events of more than 250 people — including sports — in virtually the entire Seattle metro area.

“The health and well-being of Washingtonians during the COVID-19 outbreak remains our top priority,” he said.

Washington state has had the most coronavirus cases of any state, including at least 24 deaths, most in the Seattle metro area. There are more than 260 confirmed cases in the state, most in the three counties that would be affected by Inslee’s new order.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says schools and other gathering places will be shut down for two weeks in a containment zone in New Rochelle, a suburb of New York City. The area accounts for the majority of the state’s 173 coronavirus cases.

President Donald Trump has pitched his proposed payroll tax break on Capitol Hill as pressure mounts on the administration and Congress to work more vigorously to contain the coronavirus outbreak and respond to the financial fallout.

Trump’s economic team joined in presenting the economic stimulus package privately to wary Senate Republicans. They’ve been cool to additional spending at this stage.

Democrats are preparing their own package of low-cost virus testing, unemployment insurance and sick pay for workers struggling to keep paychecks coming as the outbreak disrupts workplaces.

The novel coronavirus outbreak is also prompting new restrictions to sports fan access in the U.S. after reshaping Europe’s professional sports landscape.

Major decisions are looming about baseball’s opening day and college basketball’s NCAA Tournament. College games will be played without fans in Ohio and California, and more disruptions to the sports calendar appear inevitable.

The NCAA said it would “make decisions in the coming days” about its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. The baseball season begins in just over two weeks and includes opening day games in Seattle.

News agency: Iran VP, 2 Cabinet members have new virus

Iran’s semiofficial Fars news agency is reporting the Islamic Republic’s senior vice president and two other Cabinet members have the new coronavirus.

The report Wednesday night by Fars, believed to be close to Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, comes amid days of speculation about the health of Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri. Jahangiri has not been seen in pictures of recent top level meetings.

Fars says the others sick are Ali Asghar Mounesan, minister of cultural heritage, handcrafts and tourism, and Reza Rahmani, minister of industry, mines and business.

There was no immediate report on state media about the officials being ill. Iran is among the world’s hardest-hit nations by the virus.

Italy passes 10,000 infections

Expanding clusters of the new virus are being eyed warily on multiple continents as the outbreak reshapes everything from the U.S. presidential race to Pope Francis’ travel schedule.

Italy’s 62 million people are under strict new rules, with police enforcing measures to keep people in public places a safe distance apart and making sure certain business close by nightfall.

The death toll in Italy has risen to 631.

Italy is mulling even tighter restrictions on daily life and has announced billions in financial relief to cushion economic shocks from the coronavirus.

Premier Giuseppe Conte says he will consider requests to toughen an already extraordinary lockdown.

The hardest-hit region of Lombardy is pushing for a shutdown of nonessential businesses and public transportation on top of travel and social restrictions.

Province at China virus’ center lets some companies reopen

The province at the center of China’s virus outbreak is allowing factories and some other businesses to reopen in a show of confidence that Beijing is gaining control over the disease that devastated its economy.

The ruling Communist Party is moving to revive the world’s second-largest economy after the most sweeping anti-disease controls ever imposed shut down manufacturing, travel and other industries.

Activity isn’t expected to return to normal until at least mid-April.

President Xi Jinping’ visited Wuhan on Tuesday, signaling the disease is under control.

A foreign ministry spokesman said Wednesday that the impact from the outbreak is “temporary and limited,” rejecting suggestions companies should move out of the country or find foreign suppliers of components and raw materials.

Spain’s cases rise

Spain’s coronavirus cases have surpassed 2,000, with roughly half of them in the Madrid region, where two-thirds of the country’s virus deaths have occurred.

The Health Ministry on Wednesday reported 2,002 cases nationally, up by 363 from the previous day. Deaths reached 47, up by 11 from Tuesday.

Fernando Simón, director of Spain’s health emergency center, said Wednesday that Madrid’s fatalities are high because much of the contagion there is taking place in nursing homes. The COVID-19 virus is particularly hard on the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.

Madrid and two regions in northern Spain are closing schools and universities for two weeks to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Long queues have formed at Madrid area supermarkets amid signs of panic buying.

Simón said working from home and cancelling classes were “very beneficial” to help reduce the number of people using public transport.

UK announces $39 billion package to fight virus

Britain’s Treasury chief has announced a 30 billion-pound ($39 billion) package of measures designed to help the economy as it struggles in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.

Rishi Sunak, who has only been Chancellor of the Exchequer for less than a month, said Britain's Conservative government would do “whatever it takes” to shore up the economy through what he said will be a “temporary disruption.”

The Bank of England issued an emergency rate cut earlier Wednesday, slashing its key interest rate by half a percentage point to 0.25%. Britain has only 373 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and six deaths but the outbreak has hit the tourism industry hard and clogged up global supply chains.

Sunak said the government will provide whatever resources the National Health Service needs to get through the outbreak, which he said could affect one-in-five workers.

He said the government’s statutory sick pay will apply to anyone who has to self-isolate, even without showing any symptoms, and it will be payable from the first day of illness.

Virus cluster around Seoul call center raises S. Korea alarm

A virus cluster connected to a call center has raised alarms that South Korea’s outbreak has gained a foothold around the capital.

Seoul’s mayor said in a YouTube briefing that 93 people connected to the call center have tested positive. People who worked on other floors of the same building are being tested. And some of the workers commuted from other cities, raising concern about a broader spread through public transit.

Many of South Korea’s earlier cases had links to a church in a southeastern city, but the country’s outbreak had appeared to be waning until the Seoul cluster emerged.

More than half of South Korea’s 51 million people live in the Seoul metropolitan area.

Australia pushes out $2.4 billion virus aid package

The Australian government has announced a 2.4 billion Australian dollar ($1.6 billion) package to help tackle the virus outbreak. Australia, which has recorded 106 cases of the virus and three deaths, is rushing to boost its preparedness.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Wednesday that up to 100 fever clinics will be set up in areas of need across the country, as part of the health package.

According to The Australian newspaper, Morrison is expected to announced on Thursday a still bigger 10 billion Australian dollar ($6.5 billion) stimulus package that could include subsidies for small businesses.

Germany does not intend to close borders, Merkel says

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made it clear that Germany doesn’t intend to close its borders in light of Europe’s coronavirus epidemic, arguing that it makes more sense for people arriving from badly hit regions to quarantine themselves at home.

Germany had some 1,300 infections as of Wednesday but, so far, only three deaths — a low rate that experts have put down to rapid testing as the outbreak unfolded.

Merkel said at a rare, hastily convened news conference Wednesday in Berlin that it’s important for European leaders to discuss “what are good and effective measures and what aren’t.”

She said: “We in Germany, in any case, are of the opinion that border closures are not an appropriate response to the challenge.”

Germany isn’t a direct neighbor of Italy, the epicenter of Europe’s outbreak. Austria and Slovenia to Italy’s north and Malta to the south have largely closed their borders with Italy.

Saudi Aramco to boost capacity; Abu Dhabi to increase supply

Saudi Arabia is steaming ahead with its new energy play, directing the kingdom’s oil company Aramco to increase its maximum production capacity.

Also Wednesday, Abu Dhabi’s ADNOC said it was boosting oil output by 25% to 4 million barrels per day. Abu Dhabi’s decision to increase production comes after Saudi Arabia took steps to essentially flood the market to dominate a greater share.

That’s because major oil producer Russia refused to go along with more production cuts.

Meanwhile, global demand for oil is slowing due to the new coronavirus, which has hampered travel and business. Aramco says it’s boosting output capacity to 13 million barrels per day, but didn’t specify when.

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