The United States Capitol building is being closed off to the public beginning at 5 p.m. on Thursday afternoon and continuing until April 1.
The decision was announced by the House and Senate sergeants at arms who said the Capitol Visitor’s Center and congressional office buildings were also being closed.
“We are taking this temporary action out of concern for the health and safety of congressional employees as well as the public,” they wrote via the Associated Press. “We appreciate the understanding of those with planned visits interrupted by this necessary but prudent decision.”
The Associated Press reports:
Only lawmakers, staff, journalists and visitors with official business will be permitted to enter the buildings. The closures begin at 5 p.m. EDT Thursday, and the buildings are scheduled to reopen on April 1.
The officials said they were acting on the advice of District of Columbia health officials and of Congress’ own doctors.
— WHSVnews (@WHSVnews) March 12, 2020
As the WHSV News (a local ABC News affiliate) reports, the Capitol building closing comes after President Trump announced a travel ban for individuals coming from 26 European countries.
From the report:
Note: The author of this article has included commentary that expresses an opinion and analysis of the facts.
President Donald Trump says he is sharply restricting travel from Europe to the U.S. for 30 days beginning midnight Friday as he seeks to combat a viral pandemic. He made the announcement Wednesday in an Oval Office address to the nation.
He blames the European Union for not acting quickly enough to address the coronavirus and says U.S. clusters were “seeded” by European travelers.
The restrictions do not apply to legal permanent residents of the U.S. or their families when they are returning from Europe. They also do not apply to U.S. citizens coming back from Europe, as Trump acknowledged.
However, Americans returning from Europe will be subject to enhanced health screening.
Trump says the restrictions won’t apply to the United Kingdom and the U.S. will monitor the situation to determine if travel can be reopened earlier.