Many “in the know” expect that the United States will drop bans impacting most European and UK visitors sometime around June 14th, when President Biden heads to Europe for his first overseas trip.
Even if that happens, it still doesn’t really cover an underlying issue, which is that policy on travel for vaccinated and unvaccinated people all over the globe doesn’t match the science based risks we know of, for better and worse. And really, for the vaccinated, the lack of risk.
From the UK’s expensive testing requirements even for vaccinated travelers coming from “green list” countries, to blanket bans still in place from the United States and others, it’s time for travel policies to match up with science.
Policy, Politics And Science
I make no statements of expertise in the medical field, epidemiology or vaccination. I do, however, defer to those who are the most noted experts in these fields and their elaborate studies on important areas of concern, which are shaping the scientific data based narratives.
I do know how people respond to things though, and if $1 million lotteries for anyone who gets vaccinated are any indication, you can make vaccination numbers soar, if you start adding more lifestyle benefits for being vaccinated, particularly in travel. Even United Airlines just tapped into this.
For my primary opinion, which is that policy must match science and create travel benefits for being vaccinated, I defer to the heavily scrutinized studies which examined important things like risk of “breakthrough” infection in vaccinated people, passing onto others and all the “but, but’s” people continue to offer.
I look to Israel, the USA, UK and countries which have proven the efficacy of vaccines.
I’m all for caution and I’m all for compassion, like wearing a mask on a plane for the time being, in case an immunocompromised person is next to you, but there are some bits which are simply head scratchers.
A big note, when the US CDC announced vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks in most situations, indoors or outdoors, was that if you’re fully vaccinated, you should have faith in the vaccines and not worry as much about choices of others.
In other words, a coffee shop with an “honor” system for mask wearing based on full vaccination shouldn’t create paranoia, because vaccinated people are highly protected.
“anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities — large or small — without wearing a mask or physical distancing.”Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director, US CDC
Despite the comments, there’s been no added “benefit” in travel for those who have been fully vaccinated, at least for most.
Even fully vaccinated Americans must take covid-19 tests before returning to the USA, adding cost and effort, even from “safe” destinations. Fully vaccinated Brits traveling to “green list” approved countries on the truly bizarre ‘traffic light system’ are also still required to pay exorbitant fees for PCR tests on arrival back into the UK.
Throughout Europe, Asia, Middle East, Africa, South America and the rest of the world, many countries still show no nuance for fully vaccinated travelers. Bans are bans, rules are rules.
Most bans or travel entry restrictions apply to everyone, regardless of vaccination status, and that seems like a missed opportunity.
Germany recently changed policy, requiring all UK originating travelers to quarantine, with no exemption for people who have received fully vaccination. France then quickly followed suit. I think that’s a mistake, particularly given the high levels of vaccination in the UK and the vital opportunities that vaccinated individuals can bring.
With these moves, most won’t bother.
I’m 100% for testing of unvaccinated people and perhaps even short quarantines in extreme circumstances, for unvaccinated travelers coming from high risk areas.
I don’t even mind (free) rapid testing at an airport or immigration hall as a fully vaccinated person, if it adds a layer of security, even for the purpose of theatre. It’s a small price to pay to move again, particularly if I don’t pay.
I do, however, mind that being vaccinated isn’t “unlocking” much in travel, when science says it really should. As a fully vaccinated person, hospitalizations and deaths are almost unheard of, and spreading the virus remains mathematically improbable.
I understand that being risk averse is likely the right strategy right now for most countries. If the “waves” proved anything, it’s that it’s best to get all the facts before going too far with reopening. But they’re here now.
Even with variants, vaccination shows incredible correlation with the demise of covid-19, even including the so called UK, Indian, South African and other (xenophobic) labels people have put on things which are everywhere.
So, why is there no end to the United States ban on entry from Europe or the UK, for fully vaccinated people in either area? Is it just that we’re waiting on more tangible proof of vaccination? If so, state that – so people can plan forward trips. What many in government don’t understand is that confidence to put money on the table and book takes months.
Regime change, or in this instance – policy change; make confidence disappear and it takes an awfully long time to reappear.
If countries offered clearer road maps or an actual metric based approach to these moves, rather than the political gaming which seems to be the modus operandi, we could have a clearer picture of six months, a year and make bookings accordingly.
I know this acutely, because I’ve spoken to countless hoteliers who said price did not matter this year. Even with deep discounts, people just weren’t ready to book a trip with so many question marks. They said they’d rather pay full price when the knew they’d actually go.
If not anything else, set a track for vaccinated people. It will encourage people to get vaccinated, so they can participate in this faster track back to travel, and create more sustainable guidance, which is less likely to change.
Surely, this would allow for vital commerce and travel to resume, without constant worry about unvaccinated people entering the country?
If people see tangible benefits – such as fully vaccinated people entering the UK not being required to pay £60 ($85) plus for testing on trips from green list countries, that’s money back in people’s pockets for getting vaccinated, every trip.
For those eager to connect with loved ones, who might be vaccine hesitant, it could help move the needle into the arm. In fact, money usually talks louder than anything else.
To be fair, some countries are doing this. The problem is, world leaders seem to be slow, because they don’t have to be fast. It’s not that they disagree about the science, it’s just that there’s less at stake in many areas.
There’s a growing list of countries without testing requirements for the vaccinated, or which allow vaccinated travelers regardless of point of origin, or passport. It’s the new “golden ticket”, but just not in enough places and not in enough ways. Play it safe and slow with unvaccinated people, but it’s time for policy to match medical data on those who are vaccinated. That means opening borders.