Trump defends coronavirus travel ban on Europe, says it's going to 'work out well'

"It’s a world problem," Trump said. "You do need separations in some cases."

March 12, 2020, 3:59 PM

President Trump on Thursday continued to project optimism about the coronavirus crisis a day after his controversial speech to the nation and imposing travel ban on much of Europe, saying that’s “it’s going to work out well for everybody.”

“I think it’s going to work out well for everybody, but it’s a world problem. You do need separations in some cases. You have some areas that are heavily infected and some areas that are not. But we do need separation for a little bit of a time in some cases,” he said during an Oval Office photo op with Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office of the White House, March 12, 2020, in Washington.
President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office of the White House, March 12, 2020, in Washington.
Evan Vucci/AP

When questioned about the effectiveness of the new travel restrictions, given that Americans could still bring back the virus under the new ban, he said there will be testing and heavy enforcement of quarantines

“It they are positive … we're not putting them on planes if it shows positive. But if they are, if they do come here, we're quarantining. It's going to be a pretty strong enforcement of quarantine,” Trump said.

Emphasizing the importance of separation, the president said of the pandemic, “The really important thing … it goes away, it’s going away. We want it to go away with very, very few deaths.”

Asked about European Union leaders upset at not being told about the travel restrictions beforehand, the president said he had to move quickly and compared the decision not to consult with Europeans raising taxes on the U.S.

“We had to make a decision, and I didn’t want to take time, it takes a long time to make the individual calls and we are calling. We have spoken to some of them prior to, but we had to move quickly. When they raise taxes on us, they don't consult us,” Trump said.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump meets with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office of the White House, March 12, 2020, in Washington.
President Donald Trump meets with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office of the White House, March 12, 2020, in Washington.
Evan Vucci/AP

Questioned about the negative economic impact from the travel ban, the president said it’s a price worth paying to help blunt the spread of the virus.

“It will be a big impact but it is a bigger impact and it is also a human impact which is more important than financial, when you lose thousands of additional lives,” Trump said.

Later Thursday, the huge losses on Wall Street continued, with the Dow Jones average closing down more than 2,300 points-- about a 10% drop.

Trump said it’s “possible” the travel restrictions to Europe would need to be extended but it’s also possible it could end ahead of the 30-day period if things go well.

Asked whether he plans to invoke a national emergency under authorities granted him in the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, the president said he will do what he needs to do but wouldn’t reveal if and when he plans to exercise those authorities.

“We have strong emergency powers under the staffer act. I have it memorized practically. If I need to do something I will do it. I have the right to do a lot of things that people don't know about it,” Trump said.

“Well, I don't want to say that,” Trump said when asked if he will take any immediate action but said there are some “minor things at this point” that he might act on.

He said there is a possibility that at some point there would be travel restrictions imposed within U.S. boundaries but didn’t elaborate on the hypothetical.

Despite the fact that the figure of infected individuals continues to climb in the U.S. and that the U.S. has lagged in rolling out widespread testing, especially compared to countries such as South Korea, the president insisted that the U.S. is “in great shape.”

“We are in great shape compares to other places. We are in good shape and we want to keep it that way. That's why I did the ban with respect to Europe,” the president claimed.

Questioned about the case of one emergency doctor who struggled to get a coronavirus test for a patient, the president claimed testing “going very smoothly” and said “we’re very much ahead of everything.”

“This is a brand-new thing that just happened,” Trump said defensively. “Millions are being produced. If you go back and look at the swine flu and what happened with the swine flu, you will see how many people died and how actually nothing was done for such a long period of time as people were dying all over the place. We're doing it the opposite. We're very much ahead of everything.”

The president said he would look into the case cited but emphasized that it’s just one case and said there are other examples of efficient testing.

The president and the Irish prime minister did not shake hands in their meeting, Trump said, with the two politicians making light of the awkwardness of not doing so.

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