Donald Trump made a shock announcement yesterday evening, declaring that Europeans would be forbidden from travelling to the U.S. from Friday, March 13, due to the corona virus pandemic. The French are now preparing for an organizational nightmare and are worried about the economic consequences, particularly in the tourism sector.
This measure applies to anyone who has been to the Schengen Area during the last fourteen days before their arrival in the United States, aside from American citizens and permanent residents (green-card holders). The ban will come into force on Friday, March 13, at midnight EST.
“The European Union has failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel to China and other infection sites,” said the POTUS, half accusing Europe of being responsible for the spread of a “foreign virus” in the United States. The European Commission has heavily criticized Trump’s position.
“Donald Trump is trying to divert attention away from his attempts to stem the spread of the virus in America by finding a scapegoat,” says Roland Lescure, the representative for French citizens living in North America, in an interview with France Info. “It’s going to be an organizational nightmare. There will be planes flying half empty with untested Americans, whereas the French travelers who have been tested will not be allowed on. It will also have major economic consequences for the tourism industry.”
French travel agencies are already describing the situation as a “catastrophe.” The United States is one of the leading tourist destinations for the French — without counting business trips, academic exchanges, and conferences. The Paris-New York line alone offers 5,000 seats every day going both ways, the equivalent of two million passengers every year.
Air traffic in France has already dropped 20% since the start of March. Air France is in a “state of economic emergency,” according to its CEO, and more fragile airlines are in danger of going bankrupt. “Our economic, social, political, and daily lives will not just stop because of the spread of the virus,” said Richard Ferrand the president of France’s National Assembly.
The French embassy in Washington is telling expats about a toll-free number introduced by the French Regional Health Agency: 0 800 130 000 (free, accessible 24/7, in French).