Trump: Coronavirus Foreign Travel Restrictions More Important Than Ever
A significant portion of the press coverage from last night’s Task Force Press Conference at the White House is geared toward phased economic reopening. But President Donald Trump also made an important point about coronavirus foreign travel restrictions.
In remarks from the James S. Brady Briefing Room President Trump said,
As we begin a science-based reopening, we must be extra vigilant in blocking the foreign entry of the virus from abroad. Border control, travel restrictions, and other limitations on entry are more important than ever to keep the virus in check and allow Americans to get back to work.
Earlier in the remarks, Trump referred to his administration’s limitations on travel as “dangerous foreign travel.” The President is likely referring to his actions to curb travel to China earlier in the year, followed by limitations on European travel in March.
Foreign Travel Restrictions
The remarks were largely glossed over based on other coverage related to how states will start reopening within the United States. But they paint a picture of world leaders’ thinking on foreign travel. President Trump restricted travel from China on January 31, 2020 as an initial response to the outbreak. On March 11 in response to an increase in European coronavirus cases, the President restricted travel to and from Europe.
Earlier this week, French President Emmanuel Macron discussed the prospect of European borders remaining closed through September. That would be a significant move since the summer season in Europe is a prosperous time for the continent. In addition, a recent study finds that tourism spending in Europe is down 68%. On Friday, the U.S. and Canada extended border restrictions for an additional 30 days. Germany is unlikely to lift restrictions anytime soon. New Zealand is discussing the possibility of restricting foreign travel until there is a vaccine.
Impact on U.S. Airlines
Ironically, the impact of travel restrictions for major U.S. airlines is significant. Delta, United, and American all have singifant international routes. As those airlines struggle, travel restrictions to foreign destinations make it difficult to get back to normal. The impact on international travel has even led Southwest Airlines to take the world’s largest airline designation, as measures by weekly available seats.
Foreign travel restrictions are in place because as countries consider reopening, they want to keep an influx of the virus out. Many world leaders likely learned from what happened in China as they began reopening. While China reportedly got rid of local cases, foreign travelers arriving in the country started transmitting the virus. Countries want to avoid that prospect, so travel restrictions are likely to remain in place for months, if not more.
The reality is that this may be the new normal for some time. Countries are hesitant to do anything that might cause a spike in virus numbers. However, there is a significant impact on U.S. domestic airlines and travel companies. That is likely to only worsen as the restrictions continue. Given that payroll stimulus money is set to only guarantee airline employees remain employed through September 30th, October 1 may be a very bad month for airline employees if travel restrictions remain and the virus continues to impact the U.S. as it has.