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It’s now almost 16 months since the United States first introduced legislation that prevents most travelers originating in the UK, Ireland, or any of the Schengen Area countries from visiting its shores, and just last week we heard that the ban is not going away any time soon. In the past, this ban had some merit but it’s now just pointless Covid theatre.
If you ever wanted evidence that idiotic posturing isn’t limited to politicians on one side of the political spectrum the Covid pandemic has given it to you in unexpectedly large quantities, and you don’t even have to look at the actions of the more unhinged world leaders to see what I mean.
Boris Johnson of the UK and Joe Biden of the US are very clearly on different sides of the political divide with Johnson billing himself as a right-of-center populist/nationalist and Biden occupying space some distance to the left. Both, however, have presided over decisions and policies that are inexplicably idiotic.
In the UK we’ve seen advisories that make no sense whatsoever, we’ve seen quarantine software that’s laughable, quarantine policies being announced without any thought, travel rules changing at a moment’s notice, and, ironically, more dithering than you’d find at a seminar for procrastinators.
In The United States, the Biden administration hasn’t done quite so badly (although it has only had to deal with the last 6 months of the pandemic) but it has clearly taken a long hard look at its partner across the Atlantic and decided that it’s not about to be beaten in the “who can maintain the dumbest policy” competition. Joe has taken a look at Boris and said “hold my beer”.
Last Monday, 26 July, the White House press secretary had this to say about the travel restrictions in place for visitors originating in the UK, Ireland, and most of Europe:
[G]iven where we are today — and I think you’ve seen this, and those of you who have asked, we’ve confirmed this for — with the Delta variant, we will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point for a few reasons.
She then went ahead and gave just one reason for the continuing restrictions:
The more transmissible Delta variant is spreading both here and around the world. Driven by the Delta variant, cases are rising here at home, particularly among those who are unvaccinated, and appear likely to continue in the weeks ahead.
Apparently, the ban on travel from most of Europe to the United States has to be kept in place to prevent the Delta variant from spreading in the United States…despite the fact that that’s already exactly what it’s doing. Hasn’t the White House heard the phrase that refers to stable doors and horses bolting?
To get a true sense of how ridiculous the excuse given for the continuing travel ban is, you only have to look as far as the CDC’s own statistics.
For the two weeks ending 17 July 2021, the Delta variant (depicted in dark orange in the bar chart below) made up over 80% of the new Covid cases in the United States:
More importantly, the Delta variant isn’t limited to one area of the United States, it’s the most prevalent variant across the nation:
The simple question that every reporter should be asking at White House briefings is why is the United States is worried about introducing a Covid variant from abroad when that variant is already firmly established in the United States? What exactly is the travel ban doing?
The excuse given for the continuing travel ban looks even more ridiculous when you consider the fact that an unvaccinated, untested, anti-masker (high risk of being a Covid carrier) can jump on a plane anywhere in the United States and fly to almost any state of their choosing without issues, while a fully vaccinated and Covid tested traveler (low risk of being a Covid carrier) originating in France, for example, isn’t allowed to enter the United States. How utterly nonsensical is that?
The reality is that if the US government had genuinely wanted to stop the spread of the Delta variant, it should have locked down every state when the variant was first detected in India and it should have prevented inter-state travel as well. It chose not to do that (because such a policy would have been totally unworkable…and apparently unconstitutional) and now, unsurprisingly, the variant is in every state and spreading at will through (mainly) unvaccinated Americans.
Here’s a newsflash for the White House: The people spreading the Delta variant are already in the United States (they’re American citizens!) so preventing people in Europe from traveling to the United States because they may bring the Delta variant with them is no different to telling a child standing in the smoldering remains of a burnt-out house to put the matches down. It’s pointless.
If there’s a reason for the travel ban that’s doesn’t include the phrase “Delta variant” the government needs to tell us now or the travel ban should be lifted. The only thing the ban is doing is keeping families apart and causing untold damage to businesses and people’s livelihoods and, in the long run, that’s going to cause a lot of people a lot of irreversible harm.