All over the world, countries are imposing travel bans on visitors who’ve been to China

The travel bans run counter to advice from the World Health Organization.
The travel bans run counter to advice from the World Health Organization.
Image: AP Photo/Al-emrun Garjon
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On almost every continent, countries have taken the dramatic step of closing their borders to most, if not all, flights from China, or to foreign visitors who’ve been to China or certain parts of it. With more than 300 now dead from the Wuhan coronavirus, the US, Israel, and a handful of other nations have imposed stringent restrictions on air travel.

These bans run counter to the official advice from groups such as the World Health Organization (WHO). Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the group’s director-general, spoke out against bans of this sort: “The WHO doesn’t recommend and actually opposes any restrictions for travel and trade or other measures against China,” he said. “If anyone is thinking about taking measures, it’s going to be wrong.” He stressed that such restrictions often needlessly damage economies and encourage travelers to lie.

The bans vary by country, but China, for its part, is taking some of them personally. Upon learning of the US’s travel ban—barring any foreign national who’s been to China in the last 14 days—Chinese officials deemed the move “mean.”

“Just as the WHO recommended against travel restrictions, the US rushed in the opposite direction,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said. “[It is] certainly not a gesture of goodwill.”

The Philippines, however, announced a similar measure today, shortly before it recorded the first death from the coronavirus outside China. Meanwhile in Ethiopia the government is getting slammed on social media for not implementing such a ban.

In countries where Beijing holds more sway, authorities have resisted the idea of banning flights from China. Among them is Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen, who at a packed news conference went so far as to say any journalist wearing a face mask would be kicked out.

This is a developing story.