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Timely travel ban helped early adopters curb Covid-19 mortality rate: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on October 19, 2020 Published on October 19, 2020

The international arrivals area of Logan Airport in Boston   -  NYT

Necessary self-isolation for incoming travellers more effective than entry bans; maybe because entry bans include exceptions for citizens, permanent residents

Researcher Ruud Koopmans carried out a study to examine the role of international travel flow when the coronavirus was in its initial stage of spread., Feb. 2, 2017. Much of the criticism of the executive order banning visas from certain countries signed by President Donald Trump has focused on foreigners prevented from entering the country, but a court filing in the legal battle over the travel ban reveals a far broader impact, imperiling the residency status of tens of thousands of immigrants already living in the U.S. (M. Scott Brauer/The New York Times)

Koopmans stated in his study that until mid-March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO), European Union (EU) and German authorities were convinced that closing borders could not contain the virus.

Koopmans argued: “This belief was fatally mistaken. Travel restrictions should be given much greater weight. This holds true for containing the upcoming waves of the Covid-19 pandemic as well as similar pandemics in the future.”

The study was published as a WZB Discussion Paper and the journal EurekAlert!

Also read: Europe losing the fight to keep economy open as virus spreads

The study found that countries that are heavily exposed to international travel and tourism, including France, Italy, and the United States, recorded significantly higher numbers of coronavirus-related deaths, while death rates in countries where tourism happens at a marginal level, including island states, the death rate remained comparatively low.

Koopmans believes that international travel played a key role in spreading the virus.

His study noted that sooner such travel restriction measures were implemented, the greater was their limiting effect on mortality.

Most importantly, travel restrictions were needed to be implemented before the local transmission spiralled out of control.

Countries that put travel restrictions in place in early March reported mortality rates that was 62 per cent lower than the countries that did not.

The early adopters of travel restrictions with low fatality rates include Australia, Israel, and the Czech Republic.

Germany, which introduced its first travel restrictions on March 16, belongs to the late-adopter group. Countries, including Great Britain, France, or Brazil responded much later.

Furthermore, the study revealed that the guidelines in the travel restrictions also played an important role. Necessary self-isolation for incoming travellers was more effective than entry bans. A plausible explanation is that entry bans often include exceptions for both citizens and permanent residents.

The study further noted that targeted travel restrictions (entry bans and mandatory quarantines for travellers from China or Italy) were more effective than restrictions targeted against all foreign countries.

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Published on October 19, 2020
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