POLITICS
12/03/2020 10:34 GMT | Updated 12/03/2020 11:16 GMT

Rishi Sunak Says Donald Trump's Travel Ban Will Have Little Effect On Halting Coronavirus

Chancellor says UK government will be "always guided by the science".

Updated: See the latest stories on the coronavirus outbreak.

Rishi Sunak has said Donald Trump’s decision to ban travel from Europe to the United States will not have “a material effect” on the spread of coronavirus.

The chancellor said on Thursday the US president’s move to suspend flights could have a knock-on effect on the UK economy.

Trump said on Wednesday night announced was suspending all travel between the US and Europe – excluding the UK and Ireland – for 30 days starting on Friday.

Sunak told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme: “With regard to flight bans, we are always guided by the science as we make our decisions here.

“The advice we are getting is that there isn’t evidence that interventions like closing borders or travel bans are going to have a material effect on the spread of the infection.

He added: “That is why we have taken the decisions we have.”

Sunak said there “will be an impact on the demand side of our economy as people are unable to spend in the way they normally would and travel”.

Trump made the announcement in an Oval Office address to the nation, blaming the European Union for not acting quickly enough to address the outbreak of the virus and saying US clusters were “seeded” by European travellers.

“We made a lifesaving move with early action on China,” Trump said. “Now we must take the same action with Europe.”

Trump said the restrictions would not apply to the UK. A list of 26 affected countries published on the US Homeland Security website also confirmed Ireland was not among nations subject to the ban.

PA
Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivers his Budget in the House of Commons, London.

Homeland Security officials later clarified the new travel restrictions would only apply to most foreign nationals who had been in the “Schengen Area” at any point for 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the United States. The area includes Italy, German, Greece, Austria, Belgium and others.

It doesn’t apply to legal permanent residents, immediate family of US citizens or others “identified in the proclamation.”

The president said the US would monitor the situation to determine if travel could be reopened earlier than the 30-day period.

He said “we are marshalling the full power” of the government and private sector to protect the American people.

Trump said he was also directing agencies to provide unspecified financial relief for “for workers who are ill, quarantined or caring for others due to coronavirus,” and asked Congress to take action to extend that relief.

After days of playing down the threat, 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.