Credit where credit is due: The Biden administration’s decision to end the ban on travel by non-citizens/permanent residents from the European Schengen area, Ireland, the United Kingdom, China, India, Brazil, Iran, and South Africa is a very good one.
As I suggested in a recent blog post, the administration will replace this flat-out ban with a vaccine and testing requirement that will presumably start applying when the current restrictions end, in November. Unlike the previous regime, this system is coherent and defensible on public-health grounds, as it facilitates entry by low-risk travelers over entry by higher-risk travelers.
In fact, it would not be crazy to apply a similar requirement to domestic air travel. On a press call on Monday, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said that the White House had not ruled out such a move.
The new, stricter regime for travelers who pose significant public health risks does, unfortunately, mean that billions of people in countries with limited access to vaccines, including practically all of Africa, will effectively and indefinitely be barred from travel to the US.
While the administration may not be willing to apply a mere testing requirement to travel from such countries, it could work with airlines and local authorities to make vaccines available to potential travelers, especially those with immigrant, student, and work visas.
The stark differences in vaccine availability in different parts of the world also highlights, once again, the importance of prioritizing global vaccination efforts. IMF economists Ruchir Agarwal and Gita Gopinath have estimated the cost of a comprehensive effort to vaccinate the world at around $50 billion. Even setting aside the humanitarian considerations, their calculations suggest that the returns on this investment would include $1 trillion dollars in additional tax revenue for advanced economies alone. A no-brainer, but efforts so far have been lackluster.
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Tags: Think Tanks
Original Author: Stan Veuger
Original Location: Progress and new challenges on the international travel front