The temporary stop on immigration follows earlier restrictions on travel from China and most of Europe.

FILE: US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters as he departs for travel to North Carolina from Washington, US February 7, 2020.
FILE: US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters as he departs for travel to North Carolina from Washington, US February 7, 2020. (Reuters)

US President Donald Trump said Monday that he would temporarily suspend immigration to the United States because of the new coronavirus pandemic, despite the US already being the worst-hit country in the world.

Trump referred to the "Invisible Enemy," a phrase he has used to describe the virus that has killed more than 42,000 people out of more than 792,000 infections in the US.

"In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!" he tweeted Monday night.

Trump said the move would also protect Americans' jobs, though the state-imposed lockdowns to slow the virus's spread have already left 22 million people in the US out of work.

Trump's tweet gave no further details about what the measure would entail, how it would be implemented or how long it would be in place.

The president has touted his move to restrict travel from China over the coronavirus in January after it emerged there late last year, and he halted travel from much of Europe in mid-March as the virus spread there.

Trump has also at times appeared impatient with efforts intended to slow the spread of the virus in the US, appearing to lend support to protesters angry at governors' stay-at-home orders, and has said parts of the country can begin to abandon lockdown measures soon.

He said Monday, however, that "we've really done the right thing" on fighting the virus and that letting it spread unchecked would have been an "atrocity."

Trump has been widely criticized for initially downplaying the virus, which he likened to an ordinary flu and said was under control in the United States, before later accepting that it was a national emergency.

Trump campaigned for office on a platform of immigration skepticism and has made policies restricting immigration central to his presidency.

Source: AFP