Second COVID-19 wave forces new travel curbs around the globe
July 28, 2020 10:25 AM NPT
FILE PHOTO: Passengers walk past artwork between terminals at IAH George Bush Intercontinental Airport amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Houston, Texas, U.S., July 21, 2020. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
SYDNEY/LONDON, July 28: Nations in Asia imposed new restrictions on Monday, while an abrupt British quarantine on travellers from Spain threw Europe’s summer reopening into disarray, as the world confronted the prospect of a second wave of COVID-19 infections.
In the United States, still dealing with its first wave as infection rates have climbed since June, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, became the most senior official to test positive. The White House said Trump had not interacted with him in days and was not at risk.
Surges were reported in several countries that previously appeared to have the virus under control.
Australia recorded a record daily rise. Vietnam was forcing tens of thousands of tourists to evacuate the central city of Danang. Mainland China, where the virus first emerged late last year, confirmed the most locally transmitted cases since early March.
Hong Kong banned gatherings of more than two people, closed restaurant dining and made face masks mandatory in public.
A surge of new infections in Spain, another early epicentre of the pandemic, prompted Britain on Saturday to order all travellers from there to quarantine for two weeks, undoing months of preparation for Europe’s reopening to tourism.
On Monday, the Foreign Office dealt Madrid a new blow by extending its advice against non-essential travel to mainland Spain to include the Balearic and Canary Islands.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said travel restrictions were not a long-term answer. It said proven strategies such as social distancing and face covering must be employed to halt the virus spread.
“It is going to be almost impossible for individual countries to keep their borders shut for the foreseeable future. Economies have to open up, people have to work, trade has to resume,” WHO emergencies programme director Mike Ryan said.
Officials in some European and Asian countries where the virus is spreading again said new outbreaks could be contained with local measures rather than nationwide shutdowns.
Britain’s quarantine was an “error,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Monday.
The rebound in infections is focused in two regions, he said, adding: “In most of Spain, the incidence (of the disease) is very much inferior to even the numbers registered in the United Kingdom.”
Spain’s hotels on Monday offered to pay for foreign tourists to take coronavirus tests. Last year, Britons made up over a fifth of foreign visitors to Spain, which relies heavily on tourism.
Airlines and travel businesses that managed to survive the first wave now worry that an aborted reopening could be fatal.
Europe’s biggest airline, Ryanair, cut its annual passenger target by a quarter on Monday and warned a second wave of COVID-19 infections could lower that further.
Europe has yet to lift bans on travellers from several countries, including the United States, where premature reopenings have led to record numbers of infections and deaths in many states.