Trump says Europe travel ban may be extended; LatAm nations halt Euro flights

Washington, Mar 12 (efe-epa).- US President Donald Trump on Thursday said that he is reserving the right to extend his ban on travel from Europe to the US for longer than the original 30 days as at least two Latin American countries also moved to ban travel from Europe.

Upon being asked about the matter in the Oval Office while meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar – whose country is not affected by the ban – Trump said that he could extend the ban but he could also shorten it if the problems stemming from the coronavirus recede.

“Sure. It’s possible (that the ban could be extended beyond 30 days). And it’s possible I could also say that we could … end it early,” said Trump upon being asked by a reporter about the European travel ban.

“We think we’ll reestablish very quickly once this ends, and it’s just a question of time. And I think it’ll go pretty quickly,” the president added regarding travel from Europe.

Trump also said that his administration could “very quickly” rescind the US ban on entries to the country by foreigners who have visited China within the past 14 days because “they’ve made a lot of progress (in China) over the last three of four weeks.”

“And certainly, with Europe, we think we can go, hopefully, very quickly. They have some hotspots that are really bad, but they’ll get them better,” said Trump, adding that “Italy, of course, is probably record-setting in terms of what they’ve gone through” and Germany and France are also having problems with the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, Trump ordered a travel ban on 26 countries belonging to the Schengen free travel zone in Europe, including Spain, with the aim of preventing the spread of the coronavirus from those countries to the US, at least as much as possible.

That travel ban will enter into force on Friday at midnight, and although Trump said in his Wednesday night national address on the matter that the ban would last for 30 days, the written order he signed, which was released later by the White House, does not mention the time period and says that the travel ban will end when the president so decides.

Meanwhile, the Bolivian government announced Thursday that starting on Saturday it will suspend flights from Europe and implement other measures to prevent the coronavirus from affecting the landlocked South American country.

Interim President Jeanine Añez made the announcement to the nation after meeting with her cabinet in La Paz, a meeting at which other measures to contain the virus were also agreed to, including suspending all school classes until March 31 and prohibiting “massive public events” with more than 1,000 people in attendance, including concerts, sports events, cultural and religious events.

Bolivia currently has three confirmed coronavirus cases, two of them women who had been in Italy, one of the hardest-hit countries, and a young man who had traveled to Madrid.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro also announced on Thursday that he was suspending all flights from Europe and Colombia for one month as an addition “to the preventive measures on the international level” regarding the coronavirus, which – he said – has not yet spread to Venezuela.

He also declared an “ongoing state of emergency” in the Venezuelan health care system in terms of prevention, protection and preparation “to attend to the cases that might be detected at any time.”

Maduro also ordered the cancellation of mass gatherings of any kind, including marches and protests, among others, and he said that the flight ban could be extended to other countries “as needed” and refused to rule out closing the borders with Colombia and Brazil, two countries in which cases of the virus have been diagnosed.

He also asked President Trump to put aside “ideological differences” and lift the US sanctions on Venezuela to facilitate the purchase of more testing kits and medical materials.

Also, for the first time, the Venezuelan government provided figures relating to the virus, saying that about 30 suspected cases of coronavirus had been tested over the past three weeks, but all of those people tested negative.

In its early stages, the coronavirus symptoms resemble those of the flu or even the common cold.

The Mexican government on Thursday, however, said that it is not considering restricting flights into the country or closing its borders or entry ports due to the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that such measures are not justified since there is no scientific evidence showing that they can contain an epidemic.

The announcement was made by Mexico’s under-secretary for Prevention and Promotion of Health, Hugo Lopez-Gatell, at the administration’s morning news conference at the National Palace.

He added that such measures do not help “because they (also) have very serious economic and social consequences” as well as being contrary to health regulations.

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