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13 Mar 2020 | 03:50 PM UTC

US: President declares national emergency due to COVID-19 March 13 /update 24

President declares national emergency due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) March 13; further spread of the virus expected over the near term

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Event

On Friday, March 13, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency in the United States due to the ongoing outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The declaration will make up to $50 billion available for states and territories to combat the pandemic and gives broad authorities to the country's health secretary in order to respond to the virus.

This decision follows the president's announcement on Wednesday, March 11, that all travel to and from Europe, except for the UK, will be suspended for 30 days from midnight (local time) on March 13. Foreign nationals who have traveled in the Schengen Area within 14 days prior to their arrival in the US will not be allowed to enter the country. American citizens who have undergone appropriate screenings will be excluded from the new measure. Similar restrictions remain in place for travelers from China, Iran, and South Korea. Additional travel restrictions may be implemented over the coming days and weeks.

As of March 13, there have been more than 1800 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the US, including more than 41 associated fatalities. Cases have been reported in almost 40 states, with the hardest hit areas including Washington, California, New York, and Massachusetts. Some universities are extending holiday breaks or suspending classes as a precautionary measure. Multiple cities are also banning large gatherings and sporting events.

Further international spread of the virus is expected over the coming days and weeks.

Context

The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.

Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.

Advice

Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.

Potentially impacted travelers are advised to monitor the situation, confirm travel itineraries, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments.

To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:

  • Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
  • If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the virus.