Is it time to ban travel bans?

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An article this week in EuroNews reported that Belgrade, Serbia sees an influx of travelers from India arriving for a two-week pit-stop-a kind of ‘quarantine holiday’ -to access the United States

Although travelers from India are currently banned in many countries around the world, due to the recent increases in infection rates in Covid-19 (India has registered more cases than any other country except the United States), they are allowed to enter in America — if they spend 14 days in another ‘safe’ country first.

Crucially, Serbia is not part of the EU (nor is it the accompanying Schengen area that allows free movement across the bloc), so even if EU citizens cannot go to the US with its current travel ban, Serbs can – and so can Indian residents who spend two weeks there (the first week must be quarantined). The irony is that vaccination rates are lower there than across the EU or the UK

Loopholes like this have been a recurring theme during the pandemic, with The Economist argued this week that “most covid-19 travel restrictions should be scrapped” and Atlantic Ocean makes a case to reconsider the current international travel restrictions, which currently “make little sense”.

Many people believe that Covid-19 will affect travel for a long time to come. Yes, Bloomberg has launched its Travel Reopening Tracker, which will now track 1,538 travel combinations between 40 major business and tourism destinations so travelers can try to keep up – currently only 20% of these destinations are currently considered “more accessible.”


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Does this therefore mean that travel bans will be with us for some time, or should they be deleted altogether?

A new report from the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) called Future Scenarios for Global Mobility in the Shadow of Pandemic has identified possible scenarios for how the world may travel after pandemics. (MPI is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analyzing the movement of people worldwide).

The report states that countries make decisions based on their risk tolerance, prevalence of vaccinations and the progression and mutation of the virus, but crucially, without working together, countries will seek to create exclusive levels of people with different travel rights.

Meghan Benton, director of international research at MPI, states that no matter what the scenario, “international mobility will have to navigate a seismic shift in approaches to border management under all plausible scenarios.” Benton adds that “many countries are looking inward and focusing on reducing the threat of the latest worrying variant, but they need to look ahead and work together to surely get the world moving again.”

International travel has always been a function of wealth – which passport an owner dictates how many countries someone is allowed to enter (and how easily). Note the increase in applications for second passports from the wealthy under Covid-19, particularly from the United States, or how travel bans changed the nature of human trafficking routes in Europe.

There is therefore a fear that travel restrictions will exacerbate inequalities in the world – note the extra cost of almost £ 500 (almost $ 700) for a family of four when arriving in the UK from an amber list in July due to test requirements. The Economist believes that “international travel can come to feel exclusive, much as it used to in the mid-20th century.”

Arguments for reversal of travel restrictions

Many arguments are made to reverse travel restrictions by lawyers who believe they do not ultimately work and because they increase global inequalities:

  • World Health Organization experts have always hated the imposition of travel restrictions during a pre-Covid-19 pandemic, as reported by Axios, because of discriminatory effects, and because diseases continue to spread underground rather than outdoors.
  • Research conducted at the end of 2020, reported in Nature, showed that travel restrictions worked when they were first introduced during the pandemic, but then lost their effectiveness over time.
  • Travel restrictions are difficult to understand, a problem exacerbated by the fact that they change constantly (in response to the virus and internal, political decisions) and are updated every two or two weeks, making it difficult to keep up. New research from the UK Office for National Statistics showed that almost 50% of UK arrivals to the UK – when questioned in early 2021 – said they found it “difficult” to understand international travel rules (foreign travelers said, moreover, that they found it much easier to vote).
  • Decisions can often feel capricious or poorly managed – such as the UK reintroducing quarantine on fully vaccinated arrivals from 12 August onwards if they have had two different doses of vaccine, which was not originally the rule when it was changed on 2 August. (It has been common to use two different vaccines in several EU countries, especially those that started with the AstraZeneca vaccine and then switched to another on the advice of the health authorities).
  • The Economist claims that travel restrictions are only valid with new variants of the Covid-19, such as the Delta variant, in order to slow down the speed at which it inevitably arrives in a new country. These restrictions should be temporary and then lifted once the new variant is established (as is the case with the Delta variant now in the US).
  • The Economist also applies to universal travel rules that do not favor political friends over established scientific facts and knowledge – such as accepting all vaccines approved by the WHO. The Economist it is said, ”is the right to move one of the most valuable of all freedoms. It should only be curtailed when boundaries clearly save lives. It must be restored as soon as it is safe. In most cases, that means now. ”

Ultimately, it is extremely difficult to seek international cooperation on the free movement of people during a global pandemic (global climate change gives an indication of the difficulty and provides an interesting parallel), and it is politically challenging to reform existing policies that have already been rolled out. out and marketed.

There is also a mindset that believes that confusing travel rules and regulations may just discourage people from traveling, which may be best in terms of experiencing a resurgence of Covid-19 and new variants (and a possible increase in the race of winter 2021) in the short term, if not in the longer term.

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