In a swift statement aimed at the busy dinner news hour in the U.S., Americans heard a quick comment from the president about suspending all flights from Europe. And in that minute, something shifted.
The sweeping travel restrictions, characterized as “strong but necessary” seem to apply to anyone who has been to or is traveling from the 26 countries in the EU’s Schengen border-free area within 14 days prior to their arrival in the US. Policy makers and airlines are scrambling to determine exactly what countries and areas are now forbidden from landing at U.S. airports. It could mean that Ireland is excluded from the ban as it is not one of the 26 Schengen countries and Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania, all EU members, are also not part of the Schengen area.
The travel ban begins Friday at midnight and lasts through April 30, although “reevaluations will be in place for a possible early opening,” the president said. The ban does not affect travel between the U.S. and the U.K, he added, although there are at least 456 confirmed cases of the coronavirus across the United Kingdom.
“It only matters how you respond,” said President Trump. “At the beginning we put a ban on flights from China and put in place the first federally mandated quarantine in over than 50 years. We declared a public health emergency and issued the highest level of travel warnings on other countries. In taking early and intense action we have seen fewer cases of the virus than what are now present in Europe. The E.U. failed to take these strict precautions and refuse travel from China and other hot spots, and as a result a large number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travelers from Europe.”
Earlier this week, the president was slammed online for apparently suggesting on Twitter that a wall was needed “more than ever!” to help stop the coronavirus. The virus has sickened more than 1,100 people in the United States and 125,000 worldwide. Mexico has a total of seven confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization.
But the U.S. is not the only country closing its borders to stem the spread of the aggressive virus.
With only 42 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a complete closure of Israel’s borders. Every Israeli who returns from abroad must enter a 14-day home-quarantine. Tourists, too, must enter quarantine at their own expense. However, Netanyahu stated the restriction would be valid for only two weeks …“at the same time, we are making decisions to maintain the Israeli economy.”
In similar measures, Kuwait is halting all commercial flights (except cargo operations) until further notice, state news agency, KUNA reported. India, too, is suspending all tourist visas to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the country. “All existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN-international organizations, employment, project visas, stand suspended till 15th April 2020,” the government said in a statement.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel looked to expert estimates when stating that up to 70 percent of the population could be infected by the coronavirus. Germany confirmed some 1,300 infections, with two deaths.
“You can’t build a wall high enough to keep this out,” Alison Thomson told reporters for Al Jazeera. Thomsom is an associate professor at the University of Toronto who specializes in public health ethics. “Borders are political barriers, but they are not respected by a virus.”