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Biden’s latest travel restrictions: ineffective and discriminatory?

President-Elect Joe Biden and VP-Elect Kamala Harris

Biden’s new travel restrictions announced last week have me thinking: deja vu?

When Covid-19 first popped up on our collective radar in early 2020, many, many mistakes were made.

Some of that was to be expected (even if it was compounded by Trump’s ego and denial). Since then, we have had nearly two years, a couple variants, and many waves of cases to learn from for next time. Right?

But then Omicron popped up. A seemingly milder flavor of Covid-19, albeit spreading as if it were on discount for Black Friday, this new variant saw much of the developed world panic.

And panic is not good. Panic does not lead to good decisions.

Related: How to Find COVID-19 Rapid and PCR Testing Internationally in 3 Steps

Biden’s Travel Ban: Haven’t we learned this lesson already?

President Biden’s new travel bans are an irrational solution to a difficult problem.
The NY National Guard welcomes President Biden on his arrival.

Biden’s sudden and impromptu travel ban on 8 African nations, many of which are still reeling from the economic effects of the pandemic, was not a good decision. It was basically a carbon copy of Trump’s travel bans in 2020. And we all saw how well that worked.

Look at the timeline.

  1. March 2020: couple of cases are detected in another country (outside China) with more advanced sequencing than us.
  2. A couple days later: we ban travel from that country – but only for foreigners.
  3. Shortly thereafter: cases after case starts popping up all over the US.

A travel ban might make sense if there hasn’t been any influx of a novel disease into your country, or if you can stem off whatever there already is. But neither is true for us.

And our haphazard travel ban? It only applies to foreign citizens – not US citizens and residents traveling to and fro.

Related: St. Maarten (SXM) No Longer Requires Covid Tests: What it’s Like Now

Travel bans don’t work

Trump’s travel bans sought to separate families and
increase the disparity between developing and affluent nations.
From the Trump White House archives, Trump signs one of many executive orders.

When Trump banned travel from Europe for foreign nationals, none of us anticipated the ban would last over a year and a half, all the way until November 2021!

This travel ban prevented loved ones from being able to see each other and friends and family from being able to attend weddings or funerals. For a year and a half!

During this time, I, myself, had to go to extreme lengths to be able to spend time with my love, often spending weeks in places like Egypt or Peru so that she could enter the US.

And for what? During most of the pandemic, the US lead the statistics for most Covid-19 cases and deaths per capita – far exceeding all of the countries were included in the travel bans.

Ever since the beginning of the pandemic, even the World Health Organization has been adamant: travel bans don’t work.

Child hunger and poverty due to travel bans

A child looks into the camera with hungry eyes.
Travel bans have not curbed Covid-19… but they have induced child hunger in developing countries.

To make things worse, these bans have lead to an unprecedented increase in child hunger and poverty. According to Vox, Kenya experienced a “median of 70 percent of households reported a drop in income. Forty-five percent were forced to miss or reduce meals. Only 11 percent were able to access relief aid of any kind”.

But here we are again, artificially splitting families apart, keeping loved ones from being able to hold each other, and hurting fragile economies heavily dependent on tourism. Deja vu.

Let’s just hope this one doesn’t last a year and half.

New CDC Travel Restrictions: why the new one-day requirement is so harmful

Even Djibouti is able to provide Covid-19 testing on arrival.
When I traveled to Djibouti this year, everyone was tested on arrival.

The greatest change that came from the newest CDC travel restrictions was the requirement for everyone, even vaccinated individuals, to provide negative Covid test results take within 24 hours of departure.

While the intent of requiring a negative Covid-19 test result within 24 hours of travel is good, in execution its overall effect is more harmful than good.

What’s so bad about the CDC travel restrictions?

Living amongst the Mundari tribe in South Sudan was one of the best experience in my life.
Some of the friendly faces I met on my amazing trip in South Sudan. Many developing countries that need tourism the most are also the most impacted by these unfair, unequal restrictions.

The problem is that the newest CDC guidelines are discriminatory.

Affluent, developed countries have a plethora of testing options, including rapid testing with same-day results. These countries are totally untouched by this new change.

But developing countries, the same ones most heavily impacted by the pandemic in the first place, are now being totally discriminated against.

UN: Top Economists warn COVID-19 impacts will be severe and long-lasting for developing countries 

Many of these nations were barely beginning to taste the recovery. Imagine the excitement and anticipation hundreds of thousands of people had for the return of their only viable source of income. Now stripped away, once again.

And unfortunately, there is only one exception to this rule – and it too makes no sense.

The “recovered from Covid-19” exception: why it’s ludicrous

The Covid-19 vaccine is supposed to provide better protection against Covid-19 than natural immunity.
A medical professional holds a vial of the Pfizer BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. Studies prove the vaccine provides better effectiveness than natural immunity.

The CDC did include one exception to the new rule: those who have proof of recovery from Covid-19 within 90 days need not take another Covid test to enter the United States.

But this makes absolutely no sense.

Studies consistently prove that the immunity provided by Covid-19 vaccines is better than natural immunity – even the CDC itself totes this.

And while the intent of the rule may be to limit false post-recovery positives, the logic does not check.

There are very few countries offering RT-PCR tests with same-day results (at least at any reasonable price), so it’s extremely likely that you would instead take an antigen test – which is not prone to these post-recovery false positives caused by picking up dead viral RNA in a polymerase chain reaction.

The exception that wasn’t included in the newest CDC travel requirements and why it should be more than ever

Prior to the latest CDC-implemented travel requirements, there was a little exception that made all the difference: you did not need a test in countries without an ability to provide test results within 72 hours.

Now with the new restrictions, not only was the timing reduced to 24 hours but this caveat was completely removed.

In other words, the new CDC travel rules are a double whammy. Less time to test, and no caveat for countries without the resources.

The solution to travel restrictions and how the US doesn’t put its money where it’s mouth is

An American Airlines jet departs LAX. The airline industry has been adamant about preflight testing and other safety measures over outright travel bans since the beginning of the pandemic.

If the United States really wanted to stem inbound positive Covid-19 cases, they would have all travelers tested on arrival.

After all, if it’s so feasible for other countries to have ample rapid testing available for travelers, why shouldn’t the United States of America be able to provide the same?

The reason, obviously, is cost and (lack of) infrastructure. But if we really cared, we wouldn’t place the blame - and the burden - on others who already have so much to deal with on their own.

If basically every other country on earth open to tourism can accept an RT-PCR test within 72 hours, why can’t we? And if we want to guarantee no breakthrough cases, a $25 rapid test on arrival seems like a reasonable solution.

And all of this without stripping people of their rights to see the ones they love.

Land of the free?

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1 Comment

  1. […] Mass confusion, headache, and hassle; these seem all-too-familiar with international travel these days – especially after the newly announced stricter testing requirements. […]

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