Four, Trump’s travel restrictions, while undoubtedly helpful in slowing entries to the United States, now look overly late and limited. As the New York Times reported over the weekend, some 430,000 people have entered the United States on direct flights from China since New Year’s Eve. Most entered through airports in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York/Newark, Chicago, Seattle, and Detroit. Travelers from China were not even being screened until mid-January, and then only in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. “By that time, about 4,000 people had already entered the United States directly from Wuhan, according to VariFlight, an aviation data company based in China.” Much of the delay in January can be laid at the feet of China and the WHO, and the volume of travel since then (some 40,000 people in February and March, according to the Times, compared with hundreds of thousands in January) testifies that the restrictions had an effect. But that is still far from a complete lockdown.
By the first week of March, according to the Wall Street Journal, “at least 55 countries . . . moved to restrict travel to and from China. Some airlines cancelled flights; some governments instructed travelers to self-quarantine; and some countries refused entry to Chinese passport holders.” India on March 12 suspended virtually all foreign visas. According to unnamed sources claimed by the Washington Post, the ban on European entrants was one “that his deputy national security adviser had been advocating for weeks.” Trump would undoubtedly have faced a firestorm of criticism and charges of overreacting, xenophobia, and racism had he issued broader travel bans earlier in February. He faced quite a few such charges from his January 31 order. There probably would have been lawsuits, too. But politically speaking, those are criticisms that already are baked in the cake with Trump. He has that reputation already. He may as well have had the policy to go with it.