DONALD Trump hasn't ruled out domestic travel bans to coronavirus hotspots, as the number of deaths rocket to 60 across the US.
He warned: "We’re using the full power of the federal government to defeat the virus."
One day after declaring a national emergency – unlocking more than $50billion in disaster relief funds – Trump said people shouldn't travel "if you don't have to".
During yesterday’s coronavirus task force press briefing, the president said, "we’re focused on those hotspots".
According to CNN's state-by-state breakdown of coronavirus outbreaks, which have been confirmed in 49 states as of March 15, 40 people have died in Washington state, five in California, four in Florida, and two each in New York and New Jersey.
A reporter said to him: "Mr President, the Pentagon is telling service members and their families not to travel domestically."
He replied: "Well, if you don’t have to travel, I wouldn’t do it. We don’t want a lot of people getting infected. We want it to end, and end as quickly as possible."
Asked whether he was "considering other travel restrictions, perhaps domestically", Trump confirmed: "Yes. Specifically from certain areas. Yes, we are. And we’re working with the states, and we are considering other restrictions, yes."
The president's threat comes after an announcement to suspend all travel from Europe, with "legal residents" being screened at 13 airports.
Weary travelers returning to the US amid coronavirus-related travel restrictions are being greeted by lengthy lines and hours-long waits for required medical screenings upon touching back down on American soil.
Posts on social media over the weekend showed passengers at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport waiting for up to four hours in winding lines.
We don’t want a lot of people getting infected. We want it to end, and end as quickly as possible.
Passengers are being funneled through some of the busiest airports in the country – despite public health officials calling for social distancing to stem the pandemic's spread.
They had to scramble for flights back home after Trump temporarily suspended travel into America for foreigners who have recently spent time in the 26-nation Schengen area.
He's also adding the UK and Ireland to his hit list of countries facing sweeping travel restrictions over the next 30 days.
The death toll in the United States has already climbed to "at least" 60, according to CNN's latest figures, while infections neared 3,000.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson said yesterday: " What we’re facing now is a significant threat."
While Trump is pondering restricting domestic travel to hotspots in the US, the government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, today told Fox News: "Things are going to get worse before they get better.
“But, the kinds of things we’re doing now will hopefully mitigate that.
“We’ve got to really always be ahead of the curve.”
He said he’d prefer to be criticised for “overreacting” than failing to do enough to stem the tide of Covid-19 cases.
The 79-year-old, who has served six presidents, said his strategy on the outbreak is: “You skate not to where the puck is, but to where the puck is going to be."
He has also supported the president’s restrictions on travel from Europe.
"It’s part of the containment strategy.
“It was pretty compelling that we needed to turn off the source from that region,” he added.
Dr Fauci warned, though, "we have not reached our peak.
"We will see more cases, and we will see more suffering and death."
However, he has downplayed Trump's comments on domestic travel restrictions, saying while it's been discussed by the administration, such action is unlikely "right now or in the immediate future".
The renowned expert has translated complex medical information into everyday language while neither exaggerating nor downplaying the impact.
Over the past 30 years he has handled crises including HIV, SARS, MERS, Ebola and even the nation’s 2001 experience with bioterrorism — the anthrax attacks.
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