US bans travel to Britain and Ireland as Trump awaits coronavirus test results
Washington - The United States on Saturday expanded the European coronavirus travel ban, adding Britain and Ireland to the list, while President Donald Trump said he was tested for the virus.
"The president has made a decision to suspend all travel" to Britain and Ireland effective at midnight on Monday (0400 GMT Tuesday), Vice President Mike Pence said at a White House press briefing.
The action came after "a unanimous recommendation" from "all of our health experts," Pence said, as the number of coronavirus cases surge in those countries. In Britain, the death toll on Saturday nearly doubled from the previous day, to 21.
"They've had a little bit of activity, unfortunately," Trump told reporters earlier in the briefing. "If you don't have to travel, I wouldn't do it."
The ban will apply to anyone who was physically present in Britain and Ireland in the 14 days prior to their attempted entry to the US.
Attending meetings on Covid-19 in the White House. Working with States and local governments, many of whom have done a great job. Full report latter!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 14, 2020
Pence specified that US citizens "can come home" and will be "funneled through specific airports and processed." They will undergo medical screening and will be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Certain visa holders, foreign diplomats and some others are also exempt from the restrictions.
Trump on Wednesday announced a 30-day ban on most travel from Europe that took effect Friday at midnight.
The president said on Saturday that he was considering imposing domestic travel restrictions.
Trump also said he had been tested for the virus on Friday night and was awaiting the results, which would take a day or two to receive.
"I had my temperature taken coming into the room," he said at the news conference, adding that it was "perfectly normal."
Trump has had contact with several people who have tested positive for the virus. The White House has issued conflicting statements about testing the president, with a Friday letter from Trump's doctor saying he would not be checked for Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus.
The White House has started taking the temperature of those who have been close to Trump and Pence, including the reporters attending the Saturday press briefing.
One journalist was denied entry after having a high temperature, according to a tweet from Pence's press secretary Katie Miller.
Trump on Friday declared a national emergency to combat the virus outbreak, in a move that will free up some 50 billion dollars in aid and waive a slew of regulations in the health care sector.
Private companies began working with the government to help expedite testing, with Google developing a new website to guide people to testing locations and other firms providing drive-by testing sites.
The US House of Representatives passed a multi-billion dollar aid bill meant to blunt the economic fallout of the coronavirus late on Friday. It will next head to the Senate for a vote early next week, where it is expected to be approved and then be signed into law by Trump.
Trump has faced increasing criticism for downplaying the virus in the earlier days of the outbreak.
There are more than 1,620 cases of the virus and 41 deaths recorded in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control. However, the real number of cases is likely higher, since jurisdictions across the country complain of a lack of testing ability.
New York state reported its first virus-related death on Saturday.
"I am saddened to report the #COVID19-related death of an 82-year-old women (sic) in NYC who had a pre-existing respiratory disease (emphysema)," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tweeted.
I am saddened to report the #COVID19-related death of an 82-year-old women in NYC who had a pre-existing respiratory disease (emphysema).— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) March 14, 2020
I extend my condolences to her family during this challenging time.
The outbreak has spread into nearly every area of social life in the US, with a flurry of cancellations and closures announced in recent days, spanning Broadway theatres in New York, Disneyland in California, and major sporting events throughout the country.dpa