Trump announces steps to combat coronavirus economic fallout

WASHINGTON, USA – United States President Donald Trump on Wednesday, March 11, announced measures meant to shore up an economy reeling from the new coronavirus outbreak, while simultaneously downplaying the situation.

He also imposed a travel ban on mainland Europe for 30 days and stated trade would be halted, although he later backtracked the latter part.

While insisting the US economy remained strong, Trump urged Congress "to provide Americans with immediate payroll tax relief" to help counter the impact of the outbreak that has disrupted businesses, especially the travel industry, and sent Wall Street plunging.

"Hopefully they will consider this very strongly," he said in an address to the nation, where almost 40 people have died from the virus and more than 1,300 are infected, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Trump also said he would instruct the US Treasury to defer tax payments "for certain individuals and businesses negatively impacted" by the pandemic, a move he said would inject more than $200 billion of liquidity into the American economy.

Trump spoke after Wall Street suffered another bruising day that saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumble further, reaching 20% below its peak and sending it into a "bear market."

'People, not goods'

He criticized European governments for failing to act quickly to restrict travel from China, and announced that starting at midnight Friday, March 13, all travel from Europe – except Britain – will be suspended for a month.

In his address, he said, "These prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval," a drastic step given Washington's multiple rounds of trade conflicts and tariffs on goods from Europe and elsewhere.

He retreated from the trade remark shortly after, tweeting, "Very important for all countries & businesses to know that trade will in no way be affected by the 30-day restriction on travel from Europe."

"The restriction stops people not goods," he said.

One US carrier, American Airlines, told Agence France-Presse it was in contact with the US government "to understand and comply with this directive. 

"The health and safety of our customers and team members remains our highest priority."

In other measures, Trump said he would instruct the Small Business Administration "to exercise available authority to provide capital and liquidity to firms affected by the coronavirus."

The agency would steer low interest loans to companies in areas hit by the outbreak, and Trump asked Congress for an additional $50 billion to pay for the initiative.

He also called on insurance companies to waive payments for patients seeking treatment for COVID-19 infections.

The new coronavirus has infected more than 124,000 people worldwide since breaking out in China, killed 4,500 people and spreading to more than 100 countries and territories. – Rappler.com