While travel restrictions have been removed in many countries, the federal government still requires all international travelers to submit a negative Covid-19 test within one day of travel.
At first glance, this well-intentioned policy may seem to make sense insofar as we all want to reduce the spread and protect the most vulnerable among us.
But current facts prove that this policy has outlived its usefulness.
When this policy was enacted in January 2021, the world was in a different place. Less than 10% of Americans have been vaccinated, and new, more serious infections and ICU stays are at record levels.
Looking back, policy has never stopped the rapid global spread of Covid-19 or new variants. At best, it may have slowed it down.
Yet 80% of Americans today have received a single dose and 67% are fully vaccinated, and we now have medical advances for prevention and treatment technologies for Covid-19. The infection is less severe and the rate of hospitalization and the intensive care unit is significantly reduced.
Covid-19 has gone from being an epidemic to an endemic pandemic, which means that the disease, while still present, does not cause a major disruption to our daily lives. Obviously, if a more serious variant emerges or becomes elusive for our vaccine immunity, that’s a different story and policies that could be re-examined.
Americans deserve a normal life, but our travel policies are contradictory and defy common sense.
If testing is so important, why does the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have different policies for those who test positive at home and abroad? How do they justify a travel policy that allows people to travel domestically without testing negative for Covid-19, but not internationally?
Several countries with similar infection, vaccination and hospitalization rates, including the United Kingdom, Israel and Canada, have eliminated testing requirements for international travelers. In fact, in a rapid easing of international restrictions, Americans can now travel to more than 57 other countries without having proven a vaccine or a negative test. In a smarter approach, the CDC could tailor policy toward travel from countries with high infection, vaccination, and hospitalization rates, as needed.
Here’s a fun thing: While I can’t return from Mexico or Canada to the United States without a negative test, the federal government does not require proof of a negative test to enter our land border ports with Canada or Mexico. This allows, among other things, international travelers who have tested positive to enter the United States by land. This is an exception that many international travelers can use to get around this policy.
Some experts have also questioned the reliability of some tests, particularly in the early stages of infection.
Meanwhile, many people are asymptomatic or have largely resolved symptoms, but can still test positive while stuck in another country, incurring significant additional costs for travel and other inconveniences, even if they test negative on the day next one.
And other travelers, showing severe influenza or pneumonia, do not have such restrictions and this is always the case and no one has complained before. Obviously, those who know they have Covid-19 should not fly planes that put others at risk, but we have come to the point of trusting others rather than imposing arbitrary rules.
The policy does not take into account the inconvenience and economic costs. In a recent letter from the American Travel Association to Dr Ashish Jha, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, the association cited the fact that spending on business travel remains 56% below 2019 levels and that spending on international travel remains 78% lower. compared to 2019.
At a time when Covid-19 requirements are eased around the world at an accelerating rate, the Biden administration has no clear timetable for ending travel restrictions.
The last time the administration ignored logic and relied on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to dictate policy, it ended badly and embarrassingly. In ending the Biden administration’s masked mandate on public transportation, a Florida judge found the CDC had overstepped its authority, did not request public comment and did not adequately explain its decisions.
It would be wise for President Biden to adopt a wiser approach and abandon this outdated policy.
Doug Friedenach grew up in Denver and is a partner at the law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber and Schreck. He is the former chief of staff to Governor John Hickenlooper.
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