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Travel Bans in Vogue as Governments Try to Contain Coronavirus

Governments around the world are responding to the coronavirus pandemic with more and more travel bans as they seek to prevent imported cases while also avoiding or containing the spread of cases within their borders.

U.S. President Donald Trump issued a ban on foreign travelers who recently visited Europe's Schengen Area as he gave a televised speech that also highlighted economic measures his administration is taking.

He drew criticism from Democratic leaders who say not enough is being done to accelerate testing of potential cases in the United States, and they have offered legislation that includes free testing and paid leave that would encourage people to stay home from work.

Saudi Arabia added to its travel restrictions by banning both travel to and from a group of nations, including those in the European Union, India, Pakistan, Sudan and Kenya.

Across the globe, El Salvador has banned entry to all foreigners, while neighboring Guatemala issued its own ban on those traveling from Europe, Iran, China, and North and South Korea.

Colombia and Peru are being less strict, requiring only isolation from those who arrive from China, Italy, Spain and France.

The World Health Organization officially called the outbreak a pandemic on Wednesday.

"We must push countries, all of us, to fight as hard as they can to suppress this virus because by doing so, you are saving lives. By doing so you are buying more time for your hospitals to prepare," said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead at WHO Health Emergencies Program. "So do everything you can to be as aggressive as you can in these early cases."

WHO data early Thursday put the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases at 124,500 with 4,600 deaths. The virus has reached 118 countries. Some of the newest include Turkey, Bolivia and Jamaica. Cuba has reported its first three cases, all tourists from Italy.

In addition to travel bans, governments have increasingly turned to restricting public gatherings to go along with advice from public health officials who say such social distancing, along with hand washing and staying home for those who feel sick, can help stop the virus from spreading.

The U.S. state of California said late Wednesday that any gathering of more than 250 people should be canceled, and those in smaller groups should stay about two meters apart.

The National Basketball Association suspended its season indefinitely after a player for the Utah Jazz tested positive for coronavirus.

The National Basketball Association suspended its season indefinitely after a player for the Utah Jazz tested positive for coronavirus. The governing body for collegiate sports in the United States said the popular men's and women's basketball championship tournaments would be held with only staff and family members in attendance.

The world figure skating championships set to be held next week in Montreal have also been canceled.

In Australia, the Formula One racing series is set to go ahead with its opening event Sunday, despite several team staff members being held in isolation while they await the results of coronavirus tests.

British driver Lewis Hamilton, who has been the top F1 driver in five of the past six seasons, said Thursday he was "very surprised" the race is still on.

"It seems that the rest of the world is already reacting a little bit late, but you have seen this morning with Trump shutting down the border to Europe to the States, the NBA suspended, yet Formula One continues to go on," Hamilton told reporters.

Bahrain, host of the second race of the season, has already said it would not allow spectators.

Source: Voice of America

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