The U.S. State Department is suspending routine visa services in countries facing heightened travel alerts, including Japan and South Korea, amid the coronavirus pandemic, embassy websites for the two countries showed Wednesday.

The administration of President Donald Trump, who said the country is now fighting a "war" against the virus, is ramping up efforts to slow its spread through tougher border controls and an envisioned $1.3 trillion stimulus package to ease the economic pain stemming from the containment measures.

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Beginning Thursday, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and all consulates in Japan will suspend routine nonimmigrant visa appointments, while most services for U.S. citizens will continue.

Visa applications that do not require an in-person interview will still be processed, the embassy said. The visa waiver program that allows short-term stays for tourism and other purposes will not be affected.

The State Department decided to suspend visa services in "response to worldwide challenges related to the outbreak of COVID-19," with countries subject to travel advisories higher than level 1 set to be affected, the U.S. Embassy in South Korea said in a statement.

The travel advisory for Japan is at level 2, which calls for U.S. citizens to "exercise increased caution," while that for South Korea is at level 3, or "reconsider travel."

In South Korea, the U.S. embassy said it will cancel all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments as of Thursday. "We will resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time," it said.

Trump also said Wednesday that the United States and Canada have agreed to temporarily close their border to non-essential travel, although he added that trade will not be affected.

The administration has already imposed travel restrictions against foreigners from mainland China, where COVID-19 was first confirmed, as well as from Iran and many European countries.

Shops, restaurants, schools and other facilities are closing in the United States and people are instructed to work from home as well as avoid gathering in groups of more than 10. Over 7,000 infection cases have been confirmed across the country's 50 states plus the U.S. capital.

Indicating the seriousness of the situation, Trump announced the same day that he will invoke a wartime law enabling the government to expedite the production of medical and other necessary supplies.

"We'll be invoking the Defense Production Act, just in case we need it," Trump said at a press conference, referring to a law that was initially passed in response to the 1950-1953 Korean War. He said he now views himself as a "wartime president."

"It's a very tough situation...We had the best economy we've ever had. And then, one day, you have to close it down in order to defeat this enemy," the president added.

The Defense Production Act grants the president the authority to "expedite and expand the supply of resources from the U.S. industrial base to support military, energy, space, and homeland security programs," according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's website.

Trump said the country is in need of masks, respirators and ventilators. He also said two hospital ships will be mobilized, one to the hard-hit state of New York and another to the West Coast.

The Trump administration, meanwhile, is working with Congress to compile an economic stimulus of $1.3 trillion that may include direct cash payment to individuals.

After media reports that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had warned Republican senators Tuesday that a lack of Congress action could drive up the U.S. unemployment rate to 20 percent, Trump emphasized at Wednesday's press conference that it is an "absolute total worst-case scenario."

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