Travel bans won't stop coronavirus, warns WTTC

Worldwide counter-measures have been strongly condemned, as UK government holds emergency Cobra committee meeting.

Guevara at the World Travel And Tourism Council 2019 Global Summit
Guevara at the World Travel And Tourism Council 2019 Global Summit

Worldwide governments must not overreact with “disproportionate” measures in a bid to stop the spread of Covid-19, says the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).

The comment comes as the government’s emergency Cobra committee convenes at Downing Street this morning to sign off a “battle plan” to address the outbreak.

“Governments and those in authority must not seek to choke travel and trade at this time,” said Gloria Guevara, President and CEO of the WTTC.

“Closing borders, imposing blanket travel bans and implementing extreme policies are not the answer to stopping the spread of coronavirus.

“Past experience shows that taking such extreme action has been ineffective at best. We urge governments to explore fact-based measures which don’t affect the vast majority of people and businesses for whom travel is essential."

She continued: “It’s important to remember that fatality rates remain very low and the chances of contracting the virus, for the vast majority of people, are very remote if they travel responsibly and observe simple hygiene measures.”

Her sentiments were echoed by the European Tourism Association's (ETOA) CEO Tom Jenkins, who said that the fear being generated by the coronavirus threat is “inherently irrational.”

"Local governments spray antiseptic over buildings. Facemasks are used as a prophylactic against disease rather than a block to spreading it. You cannot reason with such irrationality. All you can do is file it alongside the Cholera bonfires of the nineteenth century, rubbing yourself with a dead pigeon to cure the plague or striking an offending body part with a bible to cure syphilis,” he said.

“At best this is harmlessly weird behaviour, but it becomes genuinely alarming when confidence is eroded. A balance has to be struck between containing what is becoming a pandemic and the damage such containment measures cause. The danger lies when governments act because they feel they need to pander to fear.”

He said that where travel can continue, it must and that ETOA operators will continue to run tours unless explicitly ordered otherwise.

WTTC analysis shows that so far 33 countries have reported cases of Covid-19, and the majority of patients have fully recovered. Covid-19 has a lower mortality rate than previous viral outbreaks such as SARS in 2003 and MERS in 2012.

The ETOA anticipates that the COVID-19 will fizzle out with the spring.

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