How To Protect Health At The Border

With the continued global spread of the coronavirus, public officials and private citizens alike are beginning to pay attention to measures meant to protect health at the border and other transit regions. Countries including the United States, Japan, and Australia have already announced new travel-related bans in an effort to crack down on the transmission of the virus. Some public health officials dispute the efficacy of such bans, however, and an ongoing global conversation about how to best protect health at the border is still underway.

Here’s a review of what experts have to say about protecting health at the border, and what recent steps have been taken to curtail the transmission of the coronavirus.

Entire borders may be shut down

One of the most drastic measures being considered by various countries is the shutting down of entire borders. In the United States, for instance, the Trump Administration has proposed a measure to close the U.S.-Mexican border which it claims is vital for protecting public health, though at the time of his statement there was a larger sum of coronavirus patients in the United States than in Mexico. The administration’s proposal also included restrictions on visiting Iran, which drew allegations that it was a politically-motivated effort instead of a public health measure.

Following advice from the World Health Organization, some countries have refused to shut down major borders. According to The Lawyer’s Daily, for instance, Canada is adhering to the WHO’s suggestions and technically lacks efficient legal means of closing the border suddenly anyway, though the idea is not beyond the realm of legal possibility. Such resources as will thus remain useful for the foreseeable future despite travel-related concerns stemming from the coronavirus.

Canadian officials still have the authority to turn away potential visitors or travellers who pose a public health risk. There are a number of scientific reasons to believe that shutting down the entire border or even enforcing lesser travel restrictions will actually substantially worsen the public health crisis. According to NPR science correspondent Joe Palca, for instance, travel restrictions in China, where the coronavirus originated, could be worsening the public health issue there. Public health experts like Catherine Worsnop at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy argue that travel restrictions come far too late, for instance. What’s worse, the restrictions will encourage individuals to stealthily evade authorities and sneak around to bypass restrictions, which can lead to unexpected transmissions which aren’t monitorable by health officials.

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