Hey, Joe Biden, please drop these insane, outdated travel bans
WWhat’s the dumbest government response to the coronavirus? There is, we can all agree, a crowded field competing for this honor. But surely there is no policy so doomed, so needlessly harmful, so absurd in its own terms as the Biden administration’s upholding of travel bans in certain countries.
The man who promised the United States would re-engage with allies cut him off from the world. The candidate who had pledged, before the presidential election, to “close the virus, not the country”, has closed the country. And the president who boasts of following science doesn’t even claim to base his crackdown on data.
Travel bans are arbitrary, costly, immoral and unscientific. They are perhaps the supreme example in America today of how bureaucratic inertia drives politics long after all theoretical justification has passed.
The restrictions were imposed, let’s remember, at the start of last year, when little was known about the coronavirus and trying to keep it out of the country still seemed a plausible option. As things turned out, this was never going to happen. The virus has reached every country, with only New Zealand more or less managing to keep it at bay.
But in the first months of 2020, it was not yet clear. Travel restrictions have been imposed on places where COVID-19 appeared to have taken hold. Inbound travel, other than for US citizens, was banned from China in January 2020, Iran in February, and then, as infections spread, from the European Union, UK, Brazil, from India and South Africa.
And there he stayed.
This policy is now so illogical that it is difficult to know where to start the criticism. At the time of writing, the country with the highest infection rate in the world is Seychelles, and the country with the highest proportional death rate is Peru. None of them are on the banned list. But Sweden and Denmark, where the disease has been successfully contained and the economy is fully open, remain there.
I cannot fly directly to the United States from Great Britain, where 65% of the population, including 80% of the adult population, has been vaccinated. But I could come via Mexico, where only 31% have been vaccinated. By the way, the figure in the United States is 54%.
However, restrictions stubbornly remain in place, such as these Bordeaux wine classifications which reflect the classifications as they were in 1855. Why? Because no one bother to reopen the question? Because nothing is as permanent as a temporary government program? Because there is a segment of the population who, as former President Donald Trump understood, quite likes the idea of ââclosed borders, not as a contingent response to a pandemic but as a desirable end in itself. ?
Whatever the explanation, the White House is obviously in no rush. On Wednesday, a spokesperson considered putting a new system in place in due course: âWe are examining the possibility of considering vaccination requirements for foreign nationals traveling to the United States. ”
Exploring? In most countries in Europe, proof of vaccination is all you need to enter. A few countries, including the UK, also require a negative test before boarding the flight. But no other developed country imposes a total ban, with all the implications for lost trade, divided families and general nuisance.
Frankly, I would even remove the remaining European style travel restrictions. Vaccines were designed as a way to slow the spread, but we now know that the three licensed versions, Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca, are extremely effective in preventing hospitalization, but only moderately effective in preventing transmission. In other words, the initial justification – getting shot to protect other people – is much weaker. Measures designed to slow the spread of a new disease are not suitable for an endemic virus.
But I accept that a full return to the pre-2020 diet is not yet on the agenda. Around the world, as I grimly predicted in these early pages, governments were slow to return the powers they had seized on a supposedly emergency basis. But, at the very least, could America now adopt the same kind of rules as everyone else? If proof of vaccination is not enough add negative test requirement, similar to UK Heck, it may even insist on quarantine for unvaccinated. But for heaven’s sake America come back to the party.
Other countries eat your lunch, willingly signing deals with rival companies located in more open jurisdictions. Meetings and conferences are relocated, visits canceled. The accusations of isolationism, which have aroused growing anger since the Afghan fiasco, seem justified in the most literal way. Come on, cousins: we miss you.