Donald Trump has defended his decision to suspend all flights from mainland Europe to the US for 30 days, following criticism from the European Union.
The European Union said the move to close US borders to European was a “unilateral decision” taken “without consultation”.
EU Council president Charles Michel and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said in a joint statement that the coronavirus pandemic is a “global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires co-operation rather than unilateral action”.
“The European Union disapproves of the fact that the US decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation,” they said.
In response to the EU, Mr Trump said at a press conference with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, that he did not consult the bloc because he had to “move quickly”.
He also said that he excluded the UK because he feels the country is doing a “good job” on the outbreak.
The commander-in-chief added that the ban may need to be extended, while accepting it could also be shortened.
Late on Wednesday night, the US president said the sanctions will come into effect from midnight on Friday, Eastern Standard Time – but will not apply to flights from the UK.
He blamed the European Union for not acting quickly enough to address the outbreak of the virus and said US clusters were “seeded” by European travellers.
Mr Trump said: “We made a lifesaving move with early action on China. Now we must take the same action with Europe.”
The president said the US would monitor the situation to determine if travel could be reopened earlier.
A Homeland Security spokesman said: “These countries, known as the Schengen Area, include: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.”
At one point in the address he said the ban would also apply to goods and cargo, but the White House later clarified that only people were affected.
Other key coronavirus developments include:
- A UK paramedic has tested positive for the coronavirus
- The manager of Leicester City FC has said some of his players are showing coronavirus symptoms
- Greece has reported its first death from the illness – a 66-year-old man with underlying health problems
- Austria has recorded its first coronavirus fatality after a 69-year-old man died in Vienna
- Iran has said there have been 75 more deaths in the country, bringing the total to 429
- Poland has reported its first death from the coronavirus, authorities in the country have said
- South Africa, where there are 17 cases, has reported its first case of locally transmitted coronavirus
- There are now 2,078 cases of the virus in Germany
- Slovakia will close all schools for 14 days
- Spain’s parliament has extended its suspension for 15 days
- All schools, universities and nurseries will close for two weeks in Lithuania
- The NBA basketball season has been suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic
- Spain has suspended all its La Liga football games, according to reports in the country
- Norway is considering closing several of its airports, according to airport operator Avinor
- Mass gatherings of 250 people or more have been banned in California
- Kazakhstan has suspended all public events in a bid to stop the spread of the virus
Mr Trump also announced the US will defer tax payments for some individuals and businesses for three months to lessen the impacts of the COVID-19 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 just a temporary moment of time that we will overcome together as a nation and as a world.”
On Thursday morning, stock markets reacted to Mr Trump’s announcement with panic, setting them up for another day of heavy losses.
After days of playing down the threat, Mr Trump changed gears with his Oval Office address.
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 in the US and the World Health Organisation declared the global crisis was now a pandemic.
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