Travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries and regions have imposed quarantines, entry bans, or other restrictions for citizens of or recent travelers to the most affected areas. Other countries and regions have imposed global restrictions that apply to all foreign countries and territories, or prevent their own citizens from travelling overseas.
- In March 2020, in response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control issued an order suspending the “introduction” of persons who have been in “Coronavirus Impacted Areas.” Citing this authority, the Border Patrol began “expelling” individuals who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border without giving them the opportunity to seek asylum, even if they express a fear of persecution. Through April 2020, CBP reported that it had expelled nearly 21,000 people as a result of this new policy. As of the time of publication, the order had been extended indefinitely.
Additionally, in response to the pandemic, all MPP hearings at the border were suspended through at least June 22, 2020, and the asylum cooperative agreements were put on hold. As a result, the asylum process has been completely blocked for people who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border during COVID-19, with the exception of some few individuals who cannot be “expelled” for logistical reasons.
- American Immigration Council, ”Asylum in the United States”, (June 11, 2020)
- Vice President Mike Pence in March directed the nation’s top disease control agency to use its emergency powers to effectively seal the U.S. borders, overruling the agency’s scientists who said there was no evidence the action would slow the coronavirus, according to two former health officials. The action has so far caused nearly 150,000 children and adults to be expelled from the country.
- Jason Dearen and Garance Burke; “Pence ordered borders closed after CDC experts refused”, AP News, (October 3, 2020)
- “The decision to halt asylum processes ‘to protect the public health’ is not based on evidence or science,” wrote Dr. Anthony So, an international public health expert at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in a letter to Redfield in April. “This order directly endangers tens of thousands of lives and threatens to amplify dangerous anti-immigrant sentiment and xenophobia.”
Since the order went into effect on March 20, nearly 150,000 people — including at least 8,800 unaccompanied children who are normally afforded special legal protections under a court settlement and federal law — have been sent back to their countries of origin without typical due process. Many have been re-turned to dangerous and violent conditions in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
- Jason Dearen and Garance Burke; “Pence ordered borders closed after CDC experts refused”, AP News, (October 3, 2020)
- From the early days of the Trump administration, Stephen Miller, the president’s chief adviser on immigration, has repeatedly tried to use an obscure law designed to protect the nation from diseases overseas as a way to tighten the borders.
The question was, which disease?
Mr. Miller pushed for invoking the president’s broad public health powers in 2019, when an outbreak of mumps spread through immigration detention facilities in six states. He tried again that year when Border Patrol stations were hit with the flu.
When vast caravans of migrants surged toward the border in 2018, Mr. Miller looked for evidence that they carried illnesses. He asked for updates on American communities that received migrants to see if new disease was spreading there.
In 2018, dozens of migrants became seriously ill in federal custody, and two under the age of 10 died within three weeks of each other. While many viewed the incidents as resulting from negligence on the part of the border authorities, Mr. Miller instead argued that they supported his argument that President Trump should use his public health powers to justify sealing the borders.
On some occasions, Mr. Miller and the president, who also embraced these ideas, were talked down by cabinet secretaries and lawyers who argued that the public health situation at the time did not provide sufficient legal basis for such a proclamation.
That changed with the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Caitlin Dickerson, Michael D. Shear; “Before Covid-19, Trump Aide Sought to Use Disease to Close Borders”, New York Times, (May 3, 2020)
- Within days of the confirmation of the first case in the United States, the White House shut American land borders to nonessential travel, closing the door to almost all migrants, including children and teenagers who arrived at the border with no parent or other adult guardian. Other international travel restrictions were introduced, as well as a pause on green card processing at American consular offices, which Mr. Miller told conservative allies in a recent private phone call was only the first step in a broader plan to restrict legal immigration. But what has been billed by the White House as an urgent response to the coronavirus pandemic was in large part repurposed from old draft executive orders and policy discussions that have taken place repeatedly since Mr. Trump took office and have now gained new legitimacy, three former officials who were involved in the earlier deliberations said.
One official said the ideas about invoking public health and other emergency powers had been on a “wish list” of about 50 ideas to curtail immigration that Mr. Miller crafted within the first six months of the administration.
- Caitlin Dickerson, Michael D. Shear; “Before Covid-19, Trump Aide Sought to Use Disease to Close Borders”, New York Times, (May 3, 2020)
- This is impossible (to impose entry limit to Mainland China people from entering Macau due to COVID-19 outbreak). So far, the World Health Organization has so far not given indications to impose entry restrictions so we can't block Wuhan residents from entering Macau. But we (Government of Macau) have requested for them to not travel to Macau, or only after the disease is contained.
- Ho Iat Seng (2020) cited in "People from Wuhan will not be barred from entering Macau – Chief Executive" on Macau Business, 23 January 2020.
- This was a very difficult choice (imposing travel lock down in Wuhan and halting public transportation in nearby cities of Huanggang, Ezhou, Zhijiang and Chibi due to COVID-19 outbreak).
- Wang Xiaodong (2020) cited in "China Expands Virus Lockdown, Encircling 35 Million" on The New York Times, 23 January 2020.
- It (travel restriction for the Chinese people due to the COVID-19 pandemic) has never been done before, there is no evidence this will do anything by shutting these people in. There is still the virus there.
- Ian Mackay (2020) cited in: "The U.S. Scientist who Predicted Coronavirus could Kill 65 Million People–Three Months before the Outbreak in Wuhan, China" in Electroverse, 25 January 2020.
- At one time, said Muller, the cruise industry treated onboard diseases as if they didn’t exist. “They just pretended it didn’t happen. Then in 2013, to their credit, they got smart and at first indication of a disease like norovirus, they’d pull up at the nearest harbor, get everybody off and do a deep clean.” (Norovirus, a contagious virus, causes vomiting and diarrhea.)
But the ships infected with the coronavirus earlier this year were not allowed to dock; they were forced to sail aimlessly as they sought an open port that would accept them. Meanwhile, the disease spread onboard. “That was the worst thing that could have happened,” Muller said.
- Christopher Muller as quoted by Rosemary McClure, “To cruise or not to cruise. Loyalists face a dilemma”, Los Angeles Times, (Sep. 10, 2020)
- More than a dozen cruise ships remain stranded at sea right now -- some with and some without passengers -- as ports deny entry and passengers panic about returning home.
On March 13, in light of mounting fears over onboard Covid-19 outbreaks, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) made the decision to suspend operations from US ports of call for 30 days.
Two weeks later, thousands of passengers and crew members remain aboard at least 15 ships across the world.
- Francesca Street, "Cruise ships are still scrambling for safe harbor", CNN, (Updated 7th April 2020)
- The use of section 212(f) and the public health authority during the pandemic is in keeping with a defining characteristic of Mr. Miller, as described by the three former officials who worked in proximity to him: His refusal to let things go. When advised that a proposed policy is not legal, they said, he works steadily to find an alternative justification and continues to raise the issue.
The former officials who were present for the discussions said Mr. Miller suggested using the president’s public health authority to seal the border so frequently that it was difficult to recall specific scenarios.
In repeated meetings in the Oval Office, in the Situation Room and during late-night phone diatribes that gave few opportunities for his colleagues to chime in, they said, Mr. Miller pushed the idea as a legal silver bullet.
He and others in the administration frequently talked about migrants as potential vectors of disease, they said. Mr. Miller cited historical precedent for invoking the president’s public health powers, pointing out that many immigrants were refused entry at Ellis Island in the late 19th century amid concerns that contagious diseases could be brought in to overcrowded cities.
During the mumps outbreak in 2019, after other White House advisers disagreed with the use of the public health authority to halt immigration, Mr. Miller ordered federal immigration officials to begin generating reports on the level of infection among detained migrants for White House review.
In the meantime, he encouraged the State Department to step up medical screenings of migrants, and crafted a presidential proclamation barring entry for immigrants who could not afford to purchase health insurance, a measure that was blocked by a federal judge.
The coronavirus pandemic has created an opening for some of Mr. Miller’s other longstanding policy goals, such as finding a way to quickly deport children who travel to the United States without a parent or other adult. Mr. Miller considered that category of migrants among the most difficult to stop, said one official who had discussed it with him, because the young people are protected legally by substantial due process requirements designed to ensure that deportation would not place them in harm’s way.
- Laurel Wamsley, John Burnett; “Trump Administration Proposes Rules To Sharply Restrict Asylum Claims, NPR, (June 11, 2020)
"The Impact of COVID-19 on Noncitizens and Across the U.S. Immigration System" (September 30, 2020)
Jorge Loweree, Aaron Reichlin-Melnick and Walter Ewing; "The Impact of COVID-19 on Noncitizens and Across the U.S. Immigration System", American Immigration Council, (September 30, 2020)
- The COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus) pandemic, and the related federal response, disrupted virtually every aspect of the U.S. immigration system. Visa processing overseas by the Department of State, as well as the processing of some immigration benefits within the country by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), have come to a near standstill. Entry into the United States along the Mexican and Canadian borders—including by asylum seekers and unaccompanied children—has been severely restricted. Immigration enforcement actions in the interior of the country have been curtailed, although they have not stopped entirely. Tens of thousands of people remain in immigration detention despite the high risk of COVID-19 transmission in crowded jails, prisons, and detention centers that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) uses to hold noncitizens. The pandemic led to the suspension of many immigration court hearings and limited the functioning of the few courts which remain open or were reopened. Meanwhile, Congress left millions of immigrants and their families out of legislative relief, leaving many people struggling to stay afloat in a time of economic uncertainty.
- On April 22, 2020, President Trump signed Proclamation 10014 (the COVID-19 immigrant visa ban), suspending the entry of certain immigrants into the United States for an initial period of 60 days, beginning on April 24. On June 22, the president extended the COVID-19 immigrant visa ban through December 31, 2020. The proclamation relies on authority granted to the president under section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act to suspend the “entry” of noncitizens whose entry the president has deemed to be “detrimental to the interests of the United States.” This is the same statutory basis that the president invoked in 2017 when implementing bans on the entry of immigrants and non immigrants from a number of Muslim-majority and other countries.
The stated justification for the new immigration ban varies from previous orders. The president justified the Travel Ban (or Muslim Ban) on national security grounds, with the stated purpose of further increasing the scrutiny of individual immigrants and nonimmigrants as well as increasing information-sharing between the United States and other nations. Unlike the Travel Ban, the COVID-19 immigrant visa ban suspends the entry of immigrants based on their purported negative impact on the U.S. labor market, not on national security grounds. The proclamation does not include any analysis, however, supporting the claim that suspending the entry of certain immigrants will help native-born workers recover from the economic downturn associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
- While the practical impact of suspending the issuance of immigrant visas for the various categories described above in the short term will be minimal in light of the disruption that COVID-19 caused to routine operations at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world, the potential long-term consequences are considerable. If the COVID-19 immigrant visa ban remains in place for a year, it is estimated that it will reduce the number of immigrant visas—and therefore the number of green cards—issued by approximately 358,000, or 33 percent of the annual total. Administration officials indicated that the proclamation is part of a long-term strategy.
- The closure of embassies and consulates abroad, combined with the restrictions on travel imposed in the United States and countries around the world, led to a significant reduction in travel to the United States both for immigrants and nonimmigrants. This decline began in February 2020 following the travel restrictions on China, which led to a drop of more than 60,000 visas issued to Chinese nationals from the previous month. Moreover, research shows that following the implementation of other restrictions, the number of noncitizens flying to the United States had decreased by 98 percent prior to the COVID-19 immigrant visa ban. The most recent statistics from the Department of State confirm that visa issuance plummeted under 50,000 from April to June 2020 (down from 713,000 in January 2020), and only rose above 50,000 visas granted in July 2020. This trend is likely to continue while consulates remain closed or reopen with only very limited services.
- The COVID-19 immigration bans are thinly veiled attempts to implement drastic changes to our legal immigration system under the guise of preserving economic opportunities for native-born Americans. The bans should be terminated.
- Dr. Richard Lessells, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa, said the reaction of the rich world to the news that South African scientists discovered a new variant was an example of its own selfishness.
"What I found disgusting and really distressing ... was not just the travel ban being implemented by the UK and Europe but that that was the only reaction, or the strongest reaction.
"There was no word of support that they're going to offer to African countries to help us control the pandemic and particularly no mention of addressing this vaccine inequity that we have been warning about all year and [of which] we are now seeing the consequences play out," he told CNN.
- Richard Lessells as quoted by Ivana Kottasová, [“Vaccine inequity and hesitancy made the Omicron variant more likely, scientists say”, CNN, (Updated November 28, 2021)
- Along with spurring many people from restricted countries to immediately plan trips to the United States, the new policies also eliminated the need for one of the odder workarounds that sprung up during the pandemic: Travelers from the prohibited countries spending two weeks in an intermediate country — often, Mexico or the Dominican Republic — and then obtaining a negative coronavirus test there before flying to the United States.
Over the past six months, Fabienne Walther, 28, from Switzerland, has helped about 20 Europeans enter the United States via Mexico. Some have rented a room in her temporary home in Playa del Carmen. In other cases, she simply offered moral support and tips about where to eat.
“The whole travel through Mexico thing is a joke,” she said, given that contracting the coronavirus is actually more of a risk in the Cancún area than in the hometowns of many of the travelers she has helped.
- Heather Murphy, “The U.S. Is Lifting Travel Restrictions for Visitors. What Do the New Rules Mean?”, New York Times, (Sept. 22, 2021; Oct. 27, 2021)
- A "travel ban" is something that nations might do initially just to lock things down while they understand what's going on -- it is not meant to be a long-term solution. It's like police at a crime scene. They lock it down for several hours to gather information and then open it back up again.
The political reaction of implementing a travel ban is not helpful in most cases. If it gives you 24 to 36 hours to at least get a lay of the land about what's happening, then I think it can be useful. But if it persists after that, particularly when you have widespread transmission of the virus in other parts of the world already, it's counterproductive.
- Michael Osterholm as quoted by Peter Bergen in “The infectious disease expert who warned us 800,000 Americans would die of Covid-19”, CNN, (Dec 11, 2021)
- "We need to resist unjustified and unscientific travel restrictions that are damaging the economies and sectors of the economies that rely on travel," Ramaphosa said during a speech at the opening of the China-Africa Summit in Dakar.
"There is a world order where a country’s wealth is the difference between sickness and health," he added.
- When the borders were closed, it was – wow. You can feel the pain in the soul. It's kind of difficult to explain. You have part of yourself in some other place far away from you.
- Anonymous, as quoted by Bailey Schulz in "Travelers in Mexico and Canada plan their next US visit after new land border policy announced", USA Today, (October 14, 2021)
- Travel bans don't help once the horse is already out of the barn, as we've seen before and are seeing now
- Tara Smith, "Omicron and other coronavirus variants: What you need to know", News-Medical.net, (Nov 30 2021)
- “It’s polarizing and divisive in the sense that it creates a society of us versus them, which is a very dangerous proposition, I think,” said Clifford Stott, a professor of social psychology at Keele University in England. “We are creating a recipe for disorder by amplifying structural inequalities.”
People who have not been vaccinated, or actively resist vaccines, tend to be poorer and less well-educated than those who have, Mr. Stott said. Many already distrust the government. Forcing their compliance by sequestering them at home or depriving them of access to bars and restaurants is only likely to deepen their sense of grievance, he said.
- Clifford Stott as quoted by Mark Landler in “Vaccine Mandates Rekindle Fierce Debate Over Civil Liberties”, New York Times, (Dec. 10, 2021)
- Jonathan Sumption, a former justice on Britain’s Supreme Court, who has been an outspoken critic of lockdown restrictions, said it was unlikely, given the country’s civil liberties tradition, that Britain would ever follow Austria.
“There are things governments should not do even if they work,” he said. But Mr. Sumption said the aggressive use of vaccine passports would have the same effect, since “people will be deprived of so many rights to go about their daily lives.”
- Jonathan Sumpton as quoted by Mark Landler, “Vaccine Mandates Rekindle Fierce Debate Over Civil Liberties”, New York Times, (Dec. 10, 2021)
- “The civil liberty argument has ebbed and flowed,” said Adam Wagner, a London-based human rights lawyer and expert on Covid-related laws. “The risk with the move toward vaccine passports is that it radicalizes libertarians and vaccine skeptics.”
That people are still arguing about how to weigh these competing values, nearly two years after the pandemic began, Mr. Wagner said, suggests, “we haven’t really come up with any great solutions.”
- Adam Wagner as quoted by Mark Landler in “Vaccine Mandates Rekindle Fierce Debate Over Civil Liberties”, New York Times, (Dec. 10, 2021)
“Travel bans should be based on evidence, not politics or fear” (January 22, 2021)
Jakub Hlávka and Lisa Bari; “Travel bans should be based on evidence, not politics or fear”, STAT, (January 22, 2021)
- The Trump White House on Monday released a presidential proclamation terminating travel bans on visitors from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, and the European Schengen area starting on Jan. 26, when a negative Covid-19 test will be required to enter the country. It took less than an hour before the incoming Biden administration’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, tweeted, “On the advice of our medical team, the administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26.”
It isn’t clear what advice the medical team gave, but scientific evidence suggests that extending such restrictions will not make Americans safer. Instead, travel bans will result in adverse consequences for millions of family members who have been separated for over 10 months, as well as avoidable economic losses.
Travel bans were first introduced in late January 2020, and extended in March and May, as a way to protect the American public from widespread introduction of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. At the outset, with limited information about the virulence of the virus and case counts in the U.S., these bans were justified — and could even have been more stringent for a short period of time to buy time and bolster preparedness.
Yet once community spread became the dominant source of transmission, the benefits of travel bans became marginal at best. Extending them does little to help meaningfully reduce the number of infections, since U.S. citizens and residents are still allowed to travel, along with select other visa holders who have been exempted. And these bans have also taken economic and human tolls while creating a false sense of protection and security.
- The public and many political leaders tend to be drawn to easy fixes. Travel bans create the impression of a decisive public health response. During the Trump administration, they aligned with xenophobic policies against China and other countries.
Community spread — not importation — quickly became the dominant source of transmission in the United States. And for most of the past 10 months, the country has had one of the highest rates of Covid-19-related infection and death per capita. Given what we know about the relative safety of air travel and the natural decline in appetite for travel since the virus first emerged, a better response to the pandemic would have consisted of more targeted interventions: masks mandates, mandatory pre- or post-travel testing, quarantines for infected travelers, and contact tracing.
- Preventing travel by certain groups of visitors carries an enormous human and economic toll. First, the economic costs of the pandemic travel slump was estimated to result in a loss of $355 billion to the U.S. travel industry in 2020 alone, including a $55 billion drop in taxes and a loss of 4.6 million jobs. While it is too early to quantify the exact impact of travel restrictions, the International Air Transport Association has shown that after increasing in the summer months of 2020, the bookings count has plateaued at about 60% to 70% lower relative to the year before. While we cannot speculate about the impact of removing travel restrictions on U.S. airlines, a 45% increase in bookings was observed when the United Kingdom shortened its quarantine from 14 to five days, a meaningful and evidence-based policy change.
- We live in a globalized world, and the personal and professional toll on those separated by travel restrictions is hard to quantify. Still, better approaches are possible. The European Union’s Free Movement Directive requires member states to “facilitate the reunion of people in durable relationships.” The EU Council Recommendation from June 2020 lists “passengers travelling for imperative family reasons” and “passengers in transit” in exemptions to any travel restrictions, which also include individuals seeking asylum, students, and workers. The U.S. has not implemented similar reunification policies to serve as exemptions to travel bans.
"Covid: Why Australia's 'world-class' quarantine system has seen breaches” (February 8, 2021)
Frances Mao, “Covid: Why Australia's 'world-class' quarantine system has seen breaches”, BBC, (February 8, 2021)
- Since March last year, Australia has essentially allowed only returning residents to enter the country, provided they complete a 14-day quarantine - usually in city hotels.
So far, more than 211,000 people have gone through this quarantine. It's a costly but effective method that is used in only a few other nations such as New Zealand, South Korea and Singapore.
But if the virus somehow escapes quarantine, the consequences can be severe. Melbourne saw this last July when a quarantined traveller infected a hotel guard, who unwittingly took the virus into the community. The resulting outbreak accounts for over 90% of Australia's 29,000 cases and 909 deaths to date.
- At the time of Melbourne's outbreak, standards were lower. Guards were found to have socialised together and worked across different hotels, and there were reports of guards mingling with quarantined travellers.
These days, however, the rules aim to prevent any such contact. Staff adhere to rigorous cleanliness standards, wear PPE and keep their distance.
As a result, many epidemiologists believe only airborne transmissions are causing cases to slip out, most likely through hotel corridors.
Various state governments have acknowledged this is a possibility, but reject suggestions they haven't taken enough action to prevent it.
- Prof Michael Toole, from the Burnet Institute, adds that with more infectious variants emerging, it's no wonder we're seeing more "spot fires" in hotels.
But even with Adelaide's breach - which pre-dated the more transmissible variants - it's suspected a security guard became infected while sitting in a corridor outside a room.
"They spent hours poring over CCTV footage to find out what that guard did wrong," said Prof Nancy Baxter, head of the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health.
"And the thing that guard did wrong was breathe air. All that person did was walk the halls, breathing the air. Right there. That should have been the clarion call that we need to do something different."
"Days After Locking Down the Unvaccinated, Austria Hits COVID Case Record" (November 18, 2021)
Paul Joseph Watson, Days After Locking Down the Unvaccinated, Austria Hits COVID Case Record, Summit, (November 18, 2021)
- Days after imposing a lockdown on the unvaccinated, Austria has hit a new COVID case record, bringing into question the effectiveness of its draconian new policy.
- Three days into its quarantine for the unjabbed, which prevents those who haven’t had both doses from being allowed outside for anything other than “essential” reasons, daily infections surpassed 14,000 for the first time since the pandemic began.
- Meanwhile, the regions of Salzburg and Upper Austria will introduce a full lockdown for the entire population next week, with Upper Austria governor Thomas Stelzer demanding the same policy be imposed nationwide. Those who took their jabs and wore their masks in order to ‘get their freedoms back’ may now be feeling a little stupid.
- numerous other countries in Europe are now moving towards the same medical apartheid, including Germany, Italy, Czech Republic and Slovakia.
“Do Covid travel restrictions work?” (Updated 30th November 2021)
Marnie Hunter, Naomi Thomas and Karla Cripps, “Do Covid travel restrictions work?”, CNN, (Updated 30th November 2021)
- The World Health Organization's Regional Office for Africa said Sunday that it stands with African nations and called for borders to remain open as an increasing number of countries around the world impose flight bans from southern African countries.
The office said countries should take a risk-based and scientific approach and put in place measures that can limit the variant's possible spread.
"Putting in place travel bans that target Africa attacks global solidarity," WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said.
"Covid-19 constantly exploits our divisions. We will only get the better of the virus if we work together for solutions."
Travel restrictions may play a role in slightly reducing the spread of Covid-19 but "place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods."
Studies show that travel restrictions may only slow the introduction of a new virus or variant by a few weeks, and WHO has repeatedly expressed fears that travel bans hurt economies and discourage countries from being forthright about reporting new viruses or variants.
- There's an "intuitive attraction" to restricting travel, says Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
"'Gee, the bad viruses are there, let's put down an iron curtain and prevent the virus from getting here,' but travel restrictions are not very restrictive," he said.
In fact, they're very porous for several reasons.
For one, the United States' new restrictions still allow US citizens and legal permanent residents coming from the affected countries in southern Africa into the United States.
"What makes anybody think that they couldn't bring the virus with them?" Schaffner said. It's similar to the earliest restrictions in 2020 curtailing travel from China, he said. "Americans kept coming back, and they brought the virus with them."
- Since Omicron sequences have been found in numerous other countries beyond southern Africa, "there should be an across-the-board quarantine and retesting requirement," said Wen, who is an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.
"If implemented correctly, (travel restrictions) do work in slowing down the rate of transmission," she said. "It only works, though, if there aren't substantial loopholes as there currently are in the US travel ban."
The nature of the virus means restrictions are not a magical solution. "We're dealing with an extraordinarily contagious respiratory virus, and history tells us that bans, restrictions, etc., only give us a little bit of time, if that, because these are so contagious that they will spread," Schaffner said.
And "there's always an element of closing the barn door after the horse has escaped," he said, noting that it's "only a matter of time" before the Omicron variant is discovered in the United States.
- Salim Abdool Karim, an epidemiologist and former co-chair of the South African Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19, told CNN's John Berman on "New Day" on Monday that travel bans are "outrageous" and will have little, if any, impact on stopping the spread of the new Omicron variant.
"Firstly, it's outrageous that South Africa and southern Africa is being punished for having good surveillance and, you know, ensuring that we wanted to be completely transparent and to share this data with the rest of the world as soon as we knew it and confirmed it," Karim said, when asked about travel restrictions put in place and how effective they were.
"If you think about ... what we've experienced with the Delta variant, within a matter of three weeks it was in over 53 countries, so it's going to become superfluous and irrelevant to try and block travel from, you know, a few countries because it will be spreading in many other countries," he said.
- The early "knee-jerk reaction" to block travel will slow the spread slightly at best, Karim said, but will probably have "little if any impact" because there is already a good approach to preventing the spread of the virus through air and sea travel.
This involves five key components, he said. Ensuring that vaccinated people are the only ones traveling, that they have a negative PCR test, are asymptomatic, wear masks in travel and are tested on entry.
"Those things, you know, will sift out 99.9% of the cases," he said.
- The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says the new travel restrictions are "not a long-term solution" when it comes to managing coronavirus variants.
"Governments are responding to the risks of the new coronavirus variant in emergency mode causing fear among the traveling public," IATA Director General Willie Walsh said in a statement. "As quickly as possible, we must use the experience of the last two years to move to a coordinated data-driven approach that finds safe alternatives to border closures and quarantine."
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