The Economist: The virus is already there, some restrictions are ineffective – international

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On December 31, 2019, the file World Health Organization (WHO) We were told of a group of what appeared to be cases of pneumonia in a Chinese city called Wuhan. In the weeks and months that followed, first cities shut down, then countries, and finally the entire planet shut down. Humanity has learned a lot about the coronavirus in the past two years. Masks, social distancing and, above all, vaccines have proven effective in limiting its spread. However, one lesson has not been learned: restrictions on long-term travel are often useless.

In November, when South Africa On the discovery of a new rapidly spreading variant, OmicronThe first response from many countries was to ban entry or impose onerous hotel quarantine requirements for travelers from South Africa. some like Japan e IsraelIt closed its borders to all foreigners. Others were in the process of reopening, such as SingaporeAnd South Korea e ThailandThey quickly changed their minds. Travel obstacles have been recreated even within the Schengen area, which is supposedly a borderless area in Europe.

Travel restrictions imposed quickly make sense in the early stages of an outbreak, when infections of one variant are few and testing and tracking systems are still able to trace infection paths. When imported cases account for more than 10% of infections, the ban could have a significant impact on the growth of the epidemic. Thus, it is possible to buy time to learn more about the new alternative, prepare hospitals or implement vaccines.

But travel bans usually persist, although once a virus or marine strain spreads in a country, they are largely useless. By the time France banned non-essential travel from the UK on December 16 hoping to prevent entry to Microns, the country was already recording a daily average of more than 50,000 infections, up 10% from its peak during this period. Delta wave at the beginning of the year. Any imported infection, at this point, wouldn’t make much of a difference in disease burden — certainly not enough to justify the economic and social disruption caused by the travel ban.

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One reason travel restrictions don’t tend to bring lasting benefits is that most travel restrictions have leaks. With very few exceptions, countries allow citizens, residents and their families, essential workers, diplomats, important businessmen or any such group to cross the border. Countries that enforce successful long-term travel bans, as Australia and New Zealand have done, must do so at great cost, not only for their global connections, but also for their citizens. For most of 2021, Australians struggled to get back home and had to pay exorbitant amounts for flights and hotels to quarantine. To keep COVID-19 at bay, such decisions must be reinforced with strict measures at home as well. Australians have not been allowed to cross the state border for most of the past two years; Melbourne was closed for 262 days in 2021.

These policies can save lives and have less leakage on islands. But few democracies are willing to put up with it for long. In fact, the only country still following a strict “no virus spread” policy is China, which has been taking increasingly desperate measures to contain the outbreak of the virus recently. In Xi’an, a city of about 13 million people, where daily infections rose from zero to more than 100 in December, authorities imposed a ferocious lockdown, repeatedly testing residents and quarantining about 30,000 people in hotels. These methods are common in China, where people give credit to their strict rulers for keeping them safe. But it is not clear whether China’s policy of non-proliferation of coronavirus is sustainable, given the high micron transmissibility, or how China will bypass itself to live with the disease.

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For the rest of the world, the best tactic is for governments to promote more economical policies, especially vaccines and booster shots, while resisting the urge to ban things just to create the illusion of design. The United Kingdom and the United States have recently shown an impressive sense. Both countries removed travel restrictions on South African countries once it became clear that the alternative was circulating at home. The United States has shortened the time period during which a negative COVID test must be obtained before travelling. The UK required incoming travelers to take a test two days after arrival and isolate themselves until they receive a negative result. However, these measures should aim to be proportional to minimal disruption. / Translated by Luvia Belloni Gonalves

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About the Author: Camelia Kirk

"Friendly zombie guru. Avid pop culture scholar. Freelance travel geek. Wannabe troublemaker. Coffee specialist."

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