Coronavirus: US suspends all travel from Europe, except UK

The US is also deferring tax payments for some individuals and businesses for three months to lessen the virus' effects.

    United States President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he is suspending all travel to the US from Europe for 30 days beginning on Friday as he seeks to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

    Trump made the announcement in an Oval Office address to the nation, blaming the European Union for not acting quickly enough to address the "foreign virus" and saying US clusters were "seeded" by European travellers.

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    "We made a lifesaving move with early action on China," Trump said. "Now we must take the same action with Europe."

    Trump said the restrictions will not apply to the United Kingdom and the US would monitor the situation to determine if travel could be reopened earlier.

    Trump said he was also directing agencies to provide unspecified financial relief for "for workers who are ill, quarantined or caring for others due to coronavirus," and asked Congress to take action to extend it.

    Trump said the US will defer tax payments for some individuals and businesses for three months to lessen the impacts of the virus outbreak. He said the Small Business Administration will also make low-interest loans available to businesses to help them weather the storm.

    "This is not a financial crisis," he said. "This is just a temporary moment of time that we will overcome together as a nation and as a world."

    Trump also reiterated his call on Congress to pass a cut to the federal payroll tax in order to stimulate the economy.

    Trump said "we are marshaling the full power" of the government and private sector to protect people in the US.

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

    The mounting effort to contain the virus and financial fallout intensified on a gruelling day: Communities cancelled public events nationwide, universities moved to cancel in-person classes and families grappled with the effect of disruptions to public schools.

    Meanwhile, the US benchmark S&P 500 stock index lost 4.89 percent, putting the index in a bear market, defined as a 20 percent fall from a recent high.

    The number of confirmed cases of the infection topped 1,000 in the US and the World Health Organization declared the global crisis is now a pandemic.

    As government officials warned that the outbreak in the US will only get worse, 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 a testimony before the House Oversight and Reform Committee. He said the virus is "10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu."

    SOURCE: AP news agency