Second virus wave forces new travel curbs around globe
Nations in Asia imposed new restrictions on Monday, while an abrupt British quarantine on travellers from Spain threw Europe’s vaunted summer reopening into disarray, as the world confronted the prospect of a second wave of COVID-19 infections.
In the United States, where 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 a number of countries previously singled out as places where the virus was under control, reports Reuters.
Australia recorded a record daily rise. Vietnam locked down the city of Danang, forcing tens of thousands of visitors to evacuate. Mainland China confirmed the most locally transmitted cases since early March. Papua New Guinea shut its borders.
Hong Kong banned gatherings of more than two people, closed down restaurant dining and made face masks mandatory in public.
A surge in infections in Spain prompted Britain to order all travellers from there to quarantine for two weeks, at a stroke undoing months of preparation for Europe’s reopening to tourism.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said travel restrictions could not be the answer for the long term, and countries had to do more to halt the spread by adopting proven strategies such as social distancing and wearing masks.
“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.
“What is clear is pressure on the virus pushes the numbers down. Release that pressure and cases creep back up.”
“SPAIN IS SAFE”
Officials in some of the European and Asian countries where the virus is spreading again say new outbreaks will not be as bad as the original waves that hit earlier this year, and can be contained with local measures rather than nationwide shutdowns.
Officials in Spain – where cases rose by 6,000 over the weekend – were stunned by Britain’s sudden quarantine move.
“Spain is safe, it is safe for Spaniards, it is safe for tourists,” Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya told reporters.
“Not only is it unjust but it’s also totally illogical and lacking in rigour,” Spain’s main hotel association CEHAT said, as hotels offered to pay for coronavirus tests.
Airlines and travel businesses that held on 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 many countries, including the United States, where Trump encouraged states in the spring to reopen quickly after a lockdown, and many are now setting infection records.