French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on Friday lashed out at American President Donald Trump’s decision to restrict travel from Europe to the United States because of the new coronavirus, warning the order would not help curb the outbreak and spark “economic chaos”. M Le Maire said in a joint interview with BFM TV and RMC radio: “It’s a sanitary aberration. And it’s a shame because this [mistake] will trigger political aberrations that will in turn trigger economic chaos.” His comments came after Health Minister Olivier Véran said that “closing borders was not justified on scientific grounds”. His 30-day travel order applies to citizens of all 27 European countries and the United Kingdom but excludes American citizens, immediate family members of US citizens and legal permanent residents of the US.
Mr Trump said in a speech: “This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history.”
Before adding: “I am confident that continuing to take these tough measures, we will significantly reduce the threat to our citizens, and we will ultimately and expeditiously defeat this virus.”
He was forced, however, to clarify with a tweet moments after his speech that “trade will in no way be affected” by the travel restriction.
“The restriction stops people, not goods,” he stressed.
Mr Trump said he had had no choice but to take drastic action as the European Union had failed to take adequate measures to stop the sometimes fatal illness.
He said: “The European Union failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel from China and other hot spots. As a result, a large number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travellers from Europe.”
European leaders, for their part, denounced the temporary travel ban, calling the coronavirus pandemic a global crisis that “requires cooperation rather than unilateral action”.
“The European Union disapproves of the fact that the US decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation,” European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a joint statement.
“The coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent, and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action,” the two said.
The health crisis deteriorated across Europe this weekend, with France and Spain joining Italy in imposing lockdowns on tens of millions of people in an effort to contain the spreading coronavirus.
France has indefinitely closed schools, universities, restaurants, bars and cinemas and banned gatherings of more than 100 people, as it urged residents to limit their non-essential movements.
The government also said long-distance trains and international flights would be limited and public transport reduced.
It is also reportedly preparing an order that would put its inhabitants under partial lockdown to combat the epidemic, sources aware of the planning said on Sunday, a move that would tighten further restrictions on public life.
A source familiar with the drafting of the decree said the confinement would begin at midnight on Tuesday.
World leaders have urged calm over the virus that has infected over 156,000 people globally and killed more than 5,800.
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