Trump’s Europe Travel Ban Shatters My Heart
It is the first time I hear about coronavirus—now officially referred to as COVID-19. It is all over the news. However, I don’t understand what the fuss is all about. Why is everyone panicking about COVID-19? I believe there is an even more deadlier virus out there, that many people are forgetting about: the flu.
Seasonal influenza (also called the flu) is an acute respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses, which circulate in all regions of the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that seasonal flu kills 290,000 to 650,000 people worldwide each year. Most people aren’t familiar with these numbers.
Weeks go by and everyone is still talking about coronavirus. It is a hot topic all over the world. Oddly enough I am not worried, even when the following happens: COVID-19 hits Italy. In less than one month Italy has gone from only three cases of coronavirus to having the largest number of cases and deaths outside of China. Am I naive for not worrying?
On Monday, March 9, the mass hysteria finally hits me. I read in the Dutch newspaper that Italy has placed its 60 million residents under lockdown, as the number of cases throughout the country continues to rise. All of a sudden my mind is all over the place. What does this entail for The Netherlands and my upcoming thru-hike?
As the days go by, the amount of coronavirus cases are increasing here as well.
“I am sure it isn’t a big deal, it will be alright, and there is no way I won’t be able to travel to the United States of America,” I try to reassure myself.
On Wednesday the 11th I read the subsequent headline:
US travel restriction on Europe “is under discussion,” official says.
The article explains that there is an unique problem in Europe due to the Schengen zone—the European countries that don’t have internal borders and allow people to move freely between them. It is questionable whether it even makes any sense to treat Italy as a unitary entity.
This is bad news. “They are going to treat Europe as a whole,” I mumble.
Nightmare Becomes Reality
The next day I wake up with tons of messages and a few missed calls. I don’t open the messages and don’t even care who called me. I immediately grab my laptop and open my browser. Thereby I find what I dreaded to find.
President Trump announces that travel from parts of Europe to the United States will be suspended for the next 30 days.
I feel like I can’t breathe. My eyes are watering and as I walk down stairs tears are streaming rapidly down my face—and it does not stop. I wake my parents up to tell them the news. Now I start to sob. Once I’ve said the words out loud, it has become a reality. My reality and the reality of many others.
This feels similar to a broken heart, perhaps even worse. My heart is shattered into pieces. Then I remember something: when you let the light in, shattered glass will glitter.
I must let the light in. Now I can hear the mountains whispering my name again. Even though my heart hurts and my head is overloaded with questions and uncertainties. There is one thing I will always be sure off:
“The mountains are calling and I must go.”
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