Trump announces travel ban from Europe amid growing fears of coronavirus

President Trump announced Wednesday that he will be suspending all travel from Europe to the U.S. for 30 days starting Friday at midnight in an effort to quell the spread of coronavirus.

His address from the Oval Office comes hours after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global pandemic and the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. climbed to more than 1,000.

Trump said the new travel exemptions do not apply to the United Kingdom.

He reiterated that travel restrictions from China — the epicenter of the virus, which originated in Wuhan — and South Korea will remain in effect but he would be willing to consider a “possible early opening” if the situation improves.

The president also announced that he would be asking Congress to consider an “immediate payroll tax relief,” which would eliminate the 6.2 percent tax on an employee’s salary up to $137,000 if they receive a paycheck, as well as the amount matched by employers to fund Social Security, an idea that he has previously floated and was met with skepticism by Republican lawmakers.

As the financial markets continued to fluctuate, stoking fears of economic downturn, Trump also announced that he will be asking the Small Business Administration — a sector of the federal government — to provide low-interest loans to small businesses negatively impacted by the virus.

Invoking emergency authority, Trump asked Congress to authorize $50 billion toward the initiative, this in addition to the $8.3 billion of funding that has already been allocated to fighting the virus.

The president said he has also asked insurance companies to waive all copayments for coronavirus testing and treatments.

Trump said “the risk is very very low” for Americans and reiterated that the greatest threat is to elderly populations with underlying health conditions.