The Trump administration is considering imposing entry restrictions at the U.S.-Mexico border to control the spread of the new coronavirus in the United States, according to two U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials, ONA reports citing CNN.
Mexico’s government said on Friday it had detected three cases of coronavirus infection in three men who had all recently traveled to Italy, making the country the second in Latin America to register the fast-spreading flu-like illness.
The Trump administration is also weighing possible restrictions on the entry of travelers from South Korea, Italy and Japan.
The White House on Friday ordered the DHS to draft a range of options to respond to outbreaks in those countries, according to one of the officials and a third DHS official, all of whom requested anonymity to discuss the deliberations.
Trump, a Republican seeking re-election on Nov. 3, has been criticized by Democrats over his administration’s response to the outbreak. The president wrote on Twitter on Saturday that he would hold a 1:30 p.m. EST (1830 GMT) White House press conference to discuss the latest coronavirus developments.
The Trump administration is readying new significant restrictions on travel to the United States for nearly all U.S. citizens who have recently traveled to Iran or South Korea that could be announced as early as Saturday, according to two administration officials.
The restrictions – similar to the measures placed on travelers who have visited China – have been under serious discussion for more than a week, the officials said.
U.S. public health officials said on Friday they had identified four “presumptive” coronavirus cases believed to have emerged from community transmission of the infection, signaling a turning point in efforts to contain the disease in the United States.
Washington state health officials reported the first patient death from coronavirus in the United States on Saturday, according to a news release.
State health officials were due to provide more information at a news conference on Saturday afternoon. No other details were immediately available.
The Trump administration also said on Friday that the United States would invoke a federal defense law to boost production of masks, gloves, gowns and other items.
A group of 11 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives led by Chip Roy of Texas sent a letter on Friday to top Trump administration officials that pressed for details on the plan to contain the coronavirus at the border with Mexico.
“Given the porous nature of our border, and the continued lack of operational control due to the influence of dangerous cartels, it is foreseeable, indeed predictable, that any outbreak in Central America or Mexico could cause a rush to our border,” the lawmakers said. “The non-secure southern border is a liability and should be seen as such in any plan for preparedness response.”
A group of three Republican senators led by Martha McSally sent a similar letter on Friday to Mark Morgan, acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Trump threatened to close the border with Mexico last year over what he characterized at the time as a lack of effort by the Mexican government to stop the northward flow of migrants, but ultimately never took action.
Speaking at a rally in South Carolina on Friday, Trump said that “border security is also health security,” but did not mention any planned actions. Earlier in the day, he said the United States will decide “very soon” about whether to bar entry to travelers from countries other than China where community transmission has emerged.
Members of a U.S. government task force on the coronavirus were scheduled to meet on Saturday morning to discuss the response, an administration official told Reuters on Friday.