Coronavirus Update – March 14, 2020
The White House announced Wednesday that non-U.S. citizens won't be allowed to travel from Europe to the U.S. for 30 days, in an unprecedented attempt to stop the spread of the new coronavirus. The travel suspension won't apply to the United Kingdom.
Initially, the suspension appeared to be broader. "To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days," Mr. Trump said in a brief, rare address to the nation. "The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight. These restrictions will be adjusted subject to conditions on the ground. There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings."
But the White House later clarified in a tweet that the suspension only applied to foreign nationals who have traveled to one of 26 European countries in the past 14 days. The tweet said American citizens would be exempt from the restrictions, and would be directed to "limited airports" for screening. The White House also said the restrictions would actually go into effect at midnight Saturday.
In addition, Mr. Trump initially said the travel suspension would apply to travelers and "trade and cargo." Within an hour of the address, he corrected himself on Twitter: "The restriction stops people not goods," the president wrote.
The announcement came after the World Health Organization declared Wednesday that the coronavirus outbreak spreading around the globe can now be characterized as a pandemic. WHO Director Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the WHO is "deeply concerned by the alarming levels of spread and severity" of the outbreak.
The number of COVID-19 cases in the United States continued to rise. Delays at the federal level have left many state and local health authorities racing to catch up, with backlogs of people waiting to be tested for the COVID-19 disease.
Global stock markets have been sliding on fears the new coronavirus would slam economic growth. U.S. stocks measured by the S&P 500 were down nearly 5% on Wednesday, and after Mr. Trump's address from the Oval Office, S&P futures were indicating stocks would open sharply lower Thursday morning. Investors worried about the hit to the economy from cutting off travel from Europe and about proposals being made to offset that impact that many thought might not be bold enough.
Meanwhile, in origin country China, there is mounting evidence that strict control measures pay off. Premier Xi Jinping has declared the disease "basically curbed," and with only about 10 new domestic infections reported in China on Wednesday, other countries were adopting similar tactics.
Italy has the biggest coronavirus outbreak outside China, with more than 800 dead and more than 12,000 COVID-19 infections. The whole nation is under stringent travel restrictions. There have now been more than 120,000 cases worldwide, and more than 4,300 people have died. The vast majority of cases are mild, and almost half of those infected have already recovered.