President Trump has suspended all travel from mainland Europe. If this sounds excessive you clearly haven’t been paying attention to just how bad things have got with the coronavirus in parts of the continent.
Northern Italy, especially, is experiencing horrors more redolent of a Medieval plague than of an advanced economy in the 21st century.
This thread, reportedly from a doctor working in an Accident and Emergency department in a Northern Italian hospital, gives a grim taste:
The current situation is difficult to imagine and numbers do not explain things at all. Our hospitals are overwhelmed by Covid-19, they are running 200% capacity
We’ve stopped all routine, all ORs have been converted to ITUs and they are now diverting or not treating all other emergencies like trauma or strokes. There are hundreds of pts with severe resp failure and many of them do not have access to anything above a reservoir mask.
Patients above 65 or younger with comorbidities are not even assessed by ITU, I am not saying not tubed, I’m saying not assessed and no ITU staff attends when they arrest. Staff are working as much as they can but they are starting to get sick and are emotionally overwhelmed.
In other words, many of Italy’s hospitals are overwhelmed. Every day they are having to make terrible Sophie’s Choice style decisions about which patients to save and which ones should be condemned to death — because they simply don’t have enough staff or equipment to keep them all alive.
Unless Trump takes drastic action — presuming it isn’t already too late — then this is the fate that awaits America too.
That’s why he was absolutely right to act in this dramatic way and for at least two good reasons.
First, political: it’s imperative — especially for those of us who believe that a second Trump term is America’s only hope — that by the year-end, when with luck the pandemic will have passed or at least diminished, President Trump emerges as a man who handled this crisis decisively and effectively. It would be just too awful if, despite his many achievements, Trump ended up handing the election to Joe Biden because of a public perception that he’d been dilatory in protecting America from the 21st century’s answer to the Black Death.
Second, geopolitical: Trump is right to shut off continental Europe because — in plague terms — it is the equivalent of one of those diseased carcasses that besieging armies used to fling with their ballistas over the city walls.
This is a consequence of its open borders policy. Under the European Union’s Schengen Agreement — one of the bloc’s defining features and by their own reckoning, greatest achievement — there is almost complete freedom of movement across national borders. Which means that everyone from gun- and drug-smugglers to terrorists to coronavirus victims can travel from one end of the continent to the other, with individual states virtually powerless to protect their own borders or citizens.
Consider Italy. Why is the situation so particularly bad there?
Partly it may be cultural: more observant Catholics taking Holy Communion; elderly living cheek-by-jowl with the young; constant social kissing.
But perhaps the best explanation so far is this one from David Vance:
Many Italians in Northern Italy sold their leather goods and textiles companies to China. Italy then allowed 100,000 Chinese from Wuhan/Wenzhou to move to Italy to work in these factories, with direct Wuhan flights. Result: Northern Italy is Europe’s hotspot for Wuhan Coronavirus pic.twitter.com/eKZ0T59cUY
— David Vance (@DVATW) March 12, 2020
He elaborates on his theory here:
The murky reality is that the EU turned a blind eye to vast numbers of illegal Chinese immigrants working in Italian factories. The ‘Open Borders’ EU will of course try to keep this under wraps, but reality is, the Chinese Mafia operate Italian textile factories with tens of thousands of illegal immigrants shipping ‘made in Italy’ goods into China and elsewhere.
Why didn’t the EU act to stop corrupt Italians taking backhanders from the Chinese mafia?
And, of course, thanks to open borders, what is Italy’s problem today will be the problem of neighbours like Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and France tomorrow.
Trump understands better than most politicians just what a corrupt, inefficient, porous entity the European Union is — which is why he was so keen for his friends in the United Kingdom to leave it.
Europe — as a continent of great individual nations which formed the bedrock of Western Civilisation — is, of course, a magnificent place. But the European Union has gone a long way towards ruining it; certainly, it has rendered it unsafe in the current pandemic.
Its open borders policy may be one reason why mainland European countries appear to have disproportionately more coronavirus infection cases than Britain or Ireland — both of which have more control over their borders, thanks to their being surrounded by sea.
And we haven’t even got onto the menace posed by the four million or so migrants currently massing on Turkey’s borders with Greece, all of whom are an accelerated viral outbreak just waiting to happen.
This is why President Trump has acted wisely in shutting the gates to plague pit Europe. It’s very harsh and there may be economic damage. But in times of crisis as bad as this, quick, tough action now may help prevent a heap of misery later.