Putting the awful death tolls and sacrifices aside, one of the hardest pills for people to swallow during the global pandemic has been being disconnected from family, friends and loved ones around the world. Borders have been closed, countries isolated and people too. It’s been hard, but many would say it’s been essential in these new and uncertain times.
I’m an American currently in the UK, but my family is back in the USA. With the Monty Python troop leading the UK into one joke policy after another, there’s plenty to complain about here in terms of travel restrictions, but for a change, it’s mostly good news on the covid-19 front itself, and that’s good news for future travel opportunity.
The country has dropped rates of infection dramatically and is now heading toward even more phased reopening, catching up with the rest of Europe, which mostly opened restaurants, cafes and attractions over a week ago, and borders too.
Which brings me to the United States of America, where things were perhaps oh so close, but…
Basically, for the purpose of reopening travel between two countries, it’s not so much about how hard an area was hit at its peak, but about where they are now and what they’ve done to stop it. Like Italy – hard hit at the start, drastic measures to bring society back safely, now welcome in many places.
How hard a country was hit may play some part, but if efforts are seen as strong enough to ensure future safety and mitigate travel risks and secondary spikes, countries are making it happen, together. Travel doesn’t have to be any more dangerous than anything locally, and in many ways it’s actually safer. Airlines require masks, planes have HEPA filters and screenings are done. It’s more than you can say for many areas on the ground.
With few exceptions, areas of the United States, the majority of which are now in the Midwest, West and South aren’t taking the virus, nor precautions to limit transmission seriously – at all. In fact, many appear to rejoice in being the free spirit which has little regard for the health of others. This doesn’t seem far short of manslaughter, like driving through a city under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
No one wants to wear a mask, no one enjoys the sensation, but its abundantly clear how important masks and distancing are to put this awful movie re-run known as covid-19 behind us.
Many are choosing to favor their “liberty” not to wear a mask, which really is little more than a hindrance, over the common sense of wearing a mask to reduce infection rates, particularly as Governors refuse to mandate social distancing, masks or anything else on a legal level. In areas where social distancing has been embraced and masks worn in confined spaces, things are almost all extremely positive right now.
Europe and Asia are perfect examples, as are many US states.
Don’t even try to say masks don’t help – they do – and only idiots believe they don’t. Oh, you read something from the CDC like 3 months ago that said they don’t – yeah – that was 3 months ago. Masks may not be 100% effective, but nothing is and every effort to mitigate is an effort to prevent loss of life. It’s all fun and games until you watch someone you know suffer.
For those keen to get businesses reopen and commerce flowing again, I hear you. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain and suffering people are feeling financially, let alone in actual health. But recovery will only sustainably happen when the virus has crept into the history books, and not when active transmissions are rising.
Basically, by being a d**khead and partying like it’s 2019, refusing to wear a mask and ignoring distancing, you’re just prolonging your own peril, and that of others, while also keeping people from being connected. Even a local business often needs something from another country as part of the supply chain.
Pretending that taking a stand and not wearing a mask is somehow more effective for the economy than just doing your part for a few more weeks, or months is incredibly stupid and there’s no polite way around that.
As Forrest Gump says: Stupid is, as stupid does.
These selfish people are now the very people dictating US foreign policy, at least when it comes to where Americans can travel. That’s absurd. All thinking people benefit from easier access to people and things around the world, and until the US gets a grip on the issue, those originating from the USA will be persona non grata in most of it. Birthdays will be missed, funerals too, all because some selfish people refuse to get a grip.
This is upsetting on many levels, not just because of the sacrifices many millions of Americans made by closing their businesses and embracing safety measures, such as masks and social distancing. More than one hundred thousand Americans died from this, and the big ask is just to wear a mask in enclosed public spaces and try to stand a few feet away from people outside your household at all times. What’s so hard?
No one’s asking someone to march off to war, to fight against mankind, they’re just asking you to watch Netflix, be sensible with spacing and do these few little things which will make a huge impact. Still, people refuse, and it’s costing Americans the invaluable experience of travel abroad. I want to have my parents join me in a destination they’ve longed to return to for decades, and that’s seriously in jeopardy.
Most businesses can and should reopen at some point in the near future, simply by embracing and rethinking the way they work. Restaurants around the world are already open and finding ways, even in countries which were just a few weeks ahead of the US in terms of initial peaks, so there’s no reason why the sheer ingenuity of the American people can’t do even better, with a little brain power.
When cities like New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Seattle began to overcome their worst peaks thanks to sensible measures, like barring anyone from entering a business if they refuse to wear a facial covering and enforced social distancing, Europe, Asia and the rest of the world started working on timelines to welcome back American visitors.
This is important for all, since Americans are typically great travelers who spend significantly abroad, and foreign visitors contribute billions upon billions annually to the US economy.
But as cases continue to spike and rise in the USA in recent weeks, and footage emerges of complete anarchy with people hosting raging dance parties and packing into bars like alcohol is going out of style, it’s putting the odds of free travel off. All the while, the United States remains closed to many outsiders.
It never has, and never will make sense to keep borders closed to populations with lower rates of infection, particularly those with better access to healthcare than the country they’re hoping to visit. Basically, when you’re the sick person of the world, you can only hope others would ever come back and visit.
For many Americans, particularly those living in areas of rising infection rates, getting on a plane anywhere else seems like the smartest move one could make right now. It’s just a shame there aren’t many places one can go…