Travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic

restriction on international travel imposed by a country in response 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.

QuotesEdit

 
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.”
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.” ~ Christopher Muller as quoted by Rosemary McClure
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • “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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

"The Impact of COVID-19 on Noncitizens and Across the U.S. Immigration System" (September 30, 2020)Edit

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.

“Travel bans should be based on evidence, not politics or fear” (January 22, 2021)Edit

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)Edit

Frances Mao, “Covid: Why Australia's 'world-class' quarantine system has seen breaches”, BBC, (February 8, 2021)

 
They spent hours poring over CCTV footage to find out what that guard did wrong. 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. ~ Nancy Baxter
  • 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."

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