US President Donald Trump’s decision to suspend travel from Europe to the United States for 30 days in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus pandemic is both unprecedented and worrying, a French tourism expert said on Thursday. The temporary travel ban “is a first-ever and also extremely disturbing,” Didier Arino, the head of the consultancy firm Protourism, told France Info radio.
The US decision, he added, will have “terrible consequences for the global tourism industry.”
Mr Arino continued: “What this new measure shows is that the virus has sparked widespread panic within the American government.”
Centrist politician Roland Lescure echoed his comments, telling France Info later on Thursday that Mr Trump’s decision was “disproportionate”.
Washington’s restriction on travel from Europe will be a “logistical nightmare,” Mr Lescure said.
He added: “Mr Trump has referred to the coronavirus as a ‘foreign virus’. But viruses don’t have passports; viruses don’t have visas. They don’t recognise borders and can pass from country to country.”
Mr Trump signed an order on Wednesday that suspends the entry of most foreign nationals who have been in certain European countries at any point during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the United States.
It does not apply to the UK and Ireland, and does not apply to American citizens and their immediate family members.
The list of EU countries includes Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, the Homeland Security Department said.
The US leader took the radical step as he scrambled to address the health and economic shocks to Americans from the sometimes fatal virus and respond to criticism he has not taken the crisis seriously enough.
He also said Europe was partly to blame for the virus’ spread in the US.
“The European Union failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel from China and other hotspots. As a result, a large number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travellers from Europe,” he said.
“I am confident that by … continuing to take these tough measures, we will significantly reduce the threat to our citizens, and we will ultimately and expeditiously defeat the virus.”
The restrictions will be adjusted subject to conditions on the ground, he added.
The EU bloc has bitterly criticised the US decision and warned the crisis required global cooperation and not unilateral action.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel said they disapproved of the travel order, which they said was “taken unilaterally and without consultation”.
In a joint statement, they insisted the Brussels bloc was taking “strong” measures to slow the spread of the virus, despite Mr Trump’s claims to the contrary.
The flu-like illness, which first emerged in a wet market in central China in December, has infected more than 142,700 people across 136 countries and regions and killed over 5,300.
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