U.S. President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that the U.S. will ban the entrance of travelers from all European countries except the UK for the next 30 days. This is the same measure Washington took against China during the early phase of the COVID-19 outbreak, and now it is imposed on the European continent as the virus is spreading across the globe. The World Health Organization officially declared on Wednesday COVID-19 a pandemic, the highest level of alert for an infectious disease.
Cutting off the human exchange with Europe is an unprecedented, radical measure for the U.S., as Europe and the U.S. have shared the same destiny as the Western Bloc and intertwined with human and commercial exchanges. Severing human exchanges with Europe is almost reminiscent of the times of the First and Second World Wars. With the WHO declaring a pandemic on COVID-19 and calling for more aggressive responses, President Trump has decided to keep a good distance between countries, nay, between continents now.
Trump’s decision is in a way unavoidable to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, but it is in the same vein with his protectionism and nationalism, which has eroded the order of the free world. The massive influx of refugees from the Middle East and Africa into Europe stoked fascism, triggered BREXIT, and ultimately led to America’s “Trumpism.” In fact, Trump’s America is now erecting walls against immigrants, waging trade wars, and championing protectionism. And the isolating wall of the virus has been added to the list.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought about the fear of the perfect storm to the global economy. After the temporary rallying, stock markets are collapsing across the globe. Previous global economy crises stemmed from financial sector, but the impact from the current pandemic will be even more devastating as it is cutting off trade and production, shaking the very root of the real economy. Companies and small business owners will take the fall, and with the mounting cases of bankruptcy, some countries will be on the brink of a total collapse. Heavy-handed measures such as travel bans or violation of privacy will prevail in the name of safety.
Of course, a temporary cut-off will not necessarily cripple the world community connected through globalization and sharing of information. But the psychological trauma might prove abiding, which could change the modus vivendi of international community. Pandemic is a new reality, and South Korea stands at the center of it. The increase of confirmed cases is not as steep, and the U.S. has yet to impose an entrance ban, but it is never a time for complacency. Now is the time for South Koreato build a comprehensive strategy for national security covering not only quarantine, but international coordination, diplomacy, and a measure to boost the local economy.