Amid Coronavirus, U.S. Adopts Travel Restriction For Iran, Increases Advisory To 'Do Not Travel' For Italy and South Korea

Trump and Pence
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence look on after a news conference regarding coronavirus at the White House on February 26 in Washington, D.C. Tasos Katopodis/Getty

The Trump administration announced travel restrictions to Iran and raised the alert level for travel advisories to Italy and South Korea over COVID-19 concerns at a press conference Saturday.

"The president authorized action today to add additional travel restrictions to Iran," Vice President Mike Pence said as he introduced the new measures, which would include "any foreign nationals who has visited Iran within the last 14 days."

"In addition...the president today has authorized the State Department to increase the travel advisory for Americans to level 4. We are urging Americans to not travel to the areas in Italy and the areas in South Korea that are most affected by the coronavirus," Pence said.

There are current 3,150 confirmed COVID-19 cases in South Korea, over 1,000 confirmed cases in Italy and 593 cases in Iran, the highest confirmed totals of any other countries besides China, according to the World Health Organization.

Trump has also directed the State Department to coordinate with Italy and South Korea in order to set up medical screenings in those countries for those wishing to travel to the United States.

Additional travel restrictions for Iran, which is already on the president's 2017 travel ban list, now include "any foreign national who has visited Iran within the last 14 days." The same policy was implemented for China on February 2.

Reuters reported Saturday that the Trump administration had been mulling over possible travel restrictions to Iran and entry restrictions at the Mexican border, according to Department of Homeland Security officials.

"We're thinking about all borders," Trump responded to reporters who asked if the administration would seek to close the southern border, adding, "but right now that is not a border, as it pertains to what we are talking about here, this is not a border that seems to be much of a problem right now. We hope we won't have to do that."

Newsweek reached out to the White House regarding any future travel restrictions and has not received a response.

The press conference came after the U.S. saw its first fatality related to COVID-19 in Washington state on Friday. Trump and other officials present at the press conference expressed their condolences for the family of the deceased patient.

The president said there are four other "very ill" patients and 15 that are either recovering or fully recovered of the 22 cases diagnosed in the U.S. Those cases do not involve American citizens repatriated to the country from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan or from Wuhan, China -- the city at the epicenter of the outbreak.

Alex Azar, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, said that the risk for Americans contracting the coronavirus currently remains low "but this can change rapidly."

"We have always said from the first moment that we have spoken about this that we will see more cases," Azar said at the press conference. "But it's important to remember for the vast majority of individuals who contract the novel coronavirus, they will experience mild to moderate symptoms and their treatment will be to remain at home treating their symptoms the way they would a severe cold or the flu."

The novel coronavirus pandemic began in Wuhan, located in the Hubei province. According to WHO, the virus has since spread to over 85,600 people worldwide and caused over 2,900 deaths. China has the most confirmed cases with over 79,300 that have resulted in over 2,800 deaths.