Is This Only The Beginning Of US Border Closures?

Filed Under: Travel

While it seems like we’re still a ways off from this happening, there’s constant talk about the US economy needing to be reopened. What does this mean for travel, and in particular, international travel?

We’ve seen increasing border closures

Over the past many weeks we’ve seen international borders closed unlike any time in recent history.

From a US perspective, at the beginning of February we saw restrictions on those traveling from China, while in mid March we saw restrictions on those traveling from Europe. The closures have only increased since then.

There’s merit to these policies in general, though obviously they are also complicated:

  • We’ve seen examples of regions that have gotten COVID-19 under control, but then had a second wave prompted largely by those coming from abroad
  • When border restrictions are put in place, they often become reciprocal, given the politics of travel
  • Closing borders is only one part of the equation — the fact that some countries still don’t perform health screenings on citizens returning home from abroad is ridiculous

Border restrictions “more important than ever”

One of the focuses of the White House briefing last night was how to reopen the economy, and this topic included what that means for reopening borders. As noted by The Winglet, President Trump said:

As we begin a science-based reopening, we must be extra vigilant in blocking the foreign entry of the virus from abroad. Border control, travel restrictions, and other limitations on entry are more important than ever to keep the virus in check and allow Americans to get back to work.

There’s nothing concrete here, but I do interpret this to mean that borders won’t be reopening anytime soon:

  • Those of us who are excited to travel probably can’t wait to go abroad
  • Given how global the economy is nowadays, many of us might have assumed that “reopening” the economy might also involve reopening borders
  • It sounds like the opposite will be true, and it’s highly unlikely we’ll see border restrictions lifted anytime soon, at least from the US; maybe we’ll even see more restrictions added

Bottom line

While the Trump administration is keen to reopen the economy, it looks like border restrictions are here to stay.

Many of us have assumed all along that domestic travel would return before international travel, though it seems like international travel may be way off at this point.

How do you read into these statements from the White House?

  1. I don’t think we see widespread lifting of border restrictions until the disease is globally under control. And, as much as it pains me to say it, I am not sure that’s wrong.

  2. It’s more likely other countries will block us Americans at this point than us block them. We are the ones who messed up with the mitigation efforts. Americans will suffer as the result policy wise.

  3. Issue is twofold: restrict travel in the name of public health AND force domestic travel to revive the economy….Possibility?

  4. I am counting the days until I can go to Toronto. I hope that we are soon in a place where evidence supports at least allowing opening of the US/Canadian border.

    I’m sure there are tens, if not hundreds, of millions of people who are hoping and waiting for international VFR travel.

  5. Until we have an effective vaccine for the CV19 or it’s mutations travel will be restrictive in one form or another. To those who are moaning about it just think it they simply opened the borders up? I like EK’s aggressive move to test passengers prior to boarding.

  6. @Flyer – This is just an insane piece of misinformation. Even with millions more tests administered in the USA, you still have Italy, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, France, UK, Sweden with more deaths/cases per million people. So how, exactly, was it the US that “messed up” the mitigation?

  7. I’ve done a lot of international leisure travel in the past 20 years and I’m often asked why I don’t want to see more of my own country. My response has always been that I do, but there may come a time when I cannot travel overseas, so I want to leave large parts of the U.S. unexplored so I can do so if/when I cannot go overseas. I think that time has come and will be this way for some time. Top of my list to see is the West (Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, etc.), as well as Charleston, Chattanooga and Los Angeles.

  8. It’s a bit rich for the US to act like they’re not the most infected country in the world. And you guys had months to prepare unlike most of Asia.

  9. @David – Lol, “months” to prepare. The first confirmed case in the US was a day before the first case in South Korea. But go on, keep spreading misinformation.

  10. One of the problems here is that the politicals in the Trump administration have so eroded trust in the government on issues surrounding border security that now, when the career people arguably need that trust, it all sounds like the same xenophobia, religious bias and racism as produced the Muslim ban, the near-ban on accepting refugees and asylees, and the border “wall.”

  11. I have a ticket from EU to the US in July. Do you guys think I should cancel or wait and see what’s the situation like in let’s say May/June?

  12. There will be no international travel until the fall. Besides, this and in the near future would be a horrible travel experience. Most of Europe is still quarantining and everything is closed. Even if you manage to go and being American, people will still flat out avoid you. Better to stay in country.

  13. Most of the closures are at the other end. Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore for example, along with much of Europe have block travelers from the US. But I don’t think US has blocked outbound – you just can’t get in many other countries.

  14. I have back to back trips to Asia in February 2021. Are those realistic expectations ?

  15. I think the Emirates example is the short term future where people are tested for Covid before flights. If testing capacity can be scaled up I think this will open up international travel. Otherwise we are largely dependent on a vaccine.

  16. There is much science to suggest that border closures don’t work once you have failed at containment, and are moving to mitigation. By the time you are mitigating, only physical distancing, testing, contact tracing, and quarantining are of much help in reducing transmission.

    Look at Australia and Singapore. Both countries closed their borders to foreigners at the same time (around March 24).

    Australia closed the borders in conjunction with a lockdown and imposing strict physical distancing. Their cases have significantly dropped.

    Singapore waited to enforce physical distancing almost two weeks after they closed the border; restaurants and bars remained open. Their “foreign transmission” cases dropped, but their overall case load has skyrocketed.

    Look also at South Korea and Taiwan; they did not close their borders when the virus first hit their countries, and they had mitigated the virus to containment. Then they closed their borders, which has helped maintain their low numbers.

    Closing borders tends to provide much political appeal, but as a strategy to reduce transmission, it has negligible effect. Just ask the epidemiologists.


    Science News:

  17. President Trump and TSA should enable those with Global Entry & Pre-Check to early testing (and vaccination, as that becomes available).
    CLEAR, DD, GS/1k and other FF/Hotel members highlight another good opportunity to identify and support high velocity travelers.
    Those who generate significant travel should be reassured to get back to work.

  18. More importantly, the borders are closed everywhere I need to be. Near term, I’m sure everything stays locked up everywhere. But in order to get the world economy up and running again, borders must reopen. You can continue to limp along for a while but at some point, you have to rip the bandaid off and just get on with it. When the borders do reopen, things might resemble the measures that were in place at many international airports in the EU back in 2015 during the Ebola outbreak with mandatory temperature scans upon entry, questionnaires with travel patterns and health questions answered and secondary health screening in some cases.

  19. @Collin, the US pretty much wasted the month of February. This is what people mean when they say that the US mismanaged this outbreak.

  20. @David: You’re the one who said that the US had far more time to prepare than most of Asia, so the fact that the US and South Korea had their first cases more or less at the same time is pretty relevant to that.

    Yes, the US response to this has been lacking, but no, we’re not the only ones who screwed this up.

  21. Anyone who has traveled into Hong Kong since SARS has experienced inbound temperature checks. They are not an inconvenience at all (assuming you don’t have a temperature, of course). You just keep walking at your normal pace. The issue with COVID-19 is that it appears you can be asymptomatic and still be shedding the virus. Short of a swab or blood test, I don’t think there is any way for that to be ascertained.

  22. This whole thing is like a Stephen Miller wet dream…at least he won’t be around politically in 200 days

  23. @Edw3rd Totally agree! Even Amex could make it a new marketing gag to say Platinum cardholders get access to antibody testing and everyone who has antibodies or a vaccine gets a certificate. Unlimited travel then awaits.

  24. @David, VitaliU. As Mike indicates, we can argue the response (or lack of) all you want (because there’s actually arguments on both sides), but it’s ridiculous to make claims that it’s the US that [solely] “messed things up” when most of Europe is in a far worse position, or that the US had months to prepare when the first confirmed cases in the US were actually earlier than many Asian countries. It’s irresponsible.

  25. This is predictable…
    1) First of all, it is just as likely as counties in Asia and Europe will have restrictions on US travelers coming into their countries as the other way around
    2) The administration will use border openings as negotiation tools for various past grievances/issues.

    Canada seems likely to open up the soonest. I would love to go to back to Montreal. Travel to and from the UK is pretty free now. Anything else will have to wait until fall, winter or 2021. I am delaying EU travel until next year

    Domestic travel will be the first to come back

  26. @Colin: “when most of Europe is in a far worse position”

    yeah, okay, keep listening to Dr. Hannity

  27. We hear more dire statements from UA and DL because they rely on Asian-Pacific and European point to point travel more than AA and certainly more than SW. I have noticed (yes I am still doing some traveling due to my Mom’s failing health (no COVID-19 BTW)) AA flights are getting more full. 30 people on my last flight and looks like 60 or so for a future flight. Still a pretty empty A321 but yes domestic travel will rebound. I can see people vacationing closer to home too, AZ, FL, Hawaii, Mexico should see a boom once people have money and can get our of their homes.

  28. @Collin Spain, the country with the second largest number of total cases after the US has currently 4022/445 cases/deaths per 1M people. The state of NY has 11530/853 cases/deaths per 1M people. Why is Europe in a far worse situation?

  29. @Rene – Really? Are you serious? Because I was comparing the USA to Spain. Try doing that.

    I wouldn’t argue that New York isn’t in a worse position than Spain. Nor did I say that.

  30. @David- It’s really a math thing. We have a larger number of people impacted, but as a percentage of the population it’s less than all of Europe combined. The number you indirectly reference is used to magnify how big the problem is, where a percentage of the population is a more honest number.

  31. As a German National with a US Citizens as my brother ( we’re living in Germany) I can travel to the US on my own to visit friends at the moment but any person living there on a student visa isn’t able to enter the states. It makes no sense

  32. @Colin, @Mike

    When did I claim US is the only one who screwed up? You guys had the worst screw up, but so did most of the West, and yet you guys act like the US should keep out all the other unhealthy nations. The wealthier nations in Asia took this seriously, while the West just fooled around.

    Why don’t you guys actually look at the hard data? US had isolated cases at the same time as SK, but they were quarantined. The relevant metric is when did the community outbreaks start? SK had a huge outbreak in mid Fed which peaked in early March.

    On the other hand, the US still had no sense of urgency (look at Lucky’s experience entering the US, among other travelers) and the huge outbreak occurred in March, and now we’re in mid April and the US still can’t confidently say they’ve peaked. Why didn’t any of the Western nations ramp up testing capabilities, the manufacturing of protective equipment and border screening while the numbers were still manageable? The West messed up.

    The irony is the West thought Taiwan was going to be hit hardest, but the hubris backfired.

  33. @David – The initial comment was directed at a different poster, who claimed “America” was the “one” who screwed up the mitigation [for the world].

    And again, I’m not arguing that the USA never screwed anything up. I’m arguing (with you, at least) that:

    1. America did not have “months” to prepare. That’s factually incorrect.
    2. The data on cases/deaths per capita is (currently) worse in a lot of Europe, versus America.

  34. Somewhere in DC, Stephen Miller just had wet dream over border closure and scream MAG! Is it sad that I am entertaining thoughts about going to Guam because it’s farthest US territory from east coast when it’s okay to fly again?

  35. Anyone who says the US should have reacted earlier How so ? Should we have closed our borders and shutdown the country when there were zero cases in the US ?

  36. Travelling the US sucks.

    It’s the same, dumb (lack of) culture wherever you go, so what’s the point?

    International travel is so, so valuable, and I fear that many of you are forgetting that as you plea for all borders to stay closed for years to come.

  37. @Colin

    The US had months to act. Taiwan raised questions about human to human transmission back in Dec last year, China recorded community outbreaks in mid Jan. Community outbreaks didn’t start occurring until mid March in the US. That’s 2 solid months to ramp up testing and production of PPE.

    The cases per capita isn’t the whole picture. The US is also well behind most of Europe when it comes to testing per capita.

  38. Technically, US airports are not closed and in reality there are a few international flights still operating. Unlike many countries of the world, the USA is still open for some people for various reasons and from various locations. It is all complicated with many exceptions. Only people who have travelled through 32 of the 195 countries in the world are technically banned. The rest are free to enter the USA. I see this being enhanced in the future as the USA moves to a more medical based criteria to be met prior to entry.

    My take is that in the future, the USA may require a medical clearance certificate to be presented before boarding any USA bound flights (including US citizens who technically are not banned from returning but would be deemed medically unfit for travel). Although not full proof, it is probably the best solution when combined with temp checks at this time.

    That said, I am pretty sure any WHO health document would not be deemed acceptable given recent events between the USA and the WHO. Maybe a EK style test may get expanded and accepted or other trusted authorities.

    Gradual easing of a medical clearance certificate could be linked to country specific infection rates from trusted countries. I would trust Australian, New Zealand numbers over North Korean, Chinese numbers for example.

    The common cold is part of the coronavirus family and we have never been able to find a cure or vaccine for this family so I would not be holding my breath for a vaccine any time soon. The world will have to learn to live with it and adjust accordingly. Travel will never be the same again.

  39. Robin – I agree 100%. With few exceptions, the US is culturally homogeneous. The few places that are different (hello Appalachia) aren’t high on my – or anyone’s -list. Now, more than ever, the average American needs exposure to the broader world. I’m just glad my EU passport arrives in a few weeks.

  40. @VitaliU: In January, the WHO was still saying that the virus can’t be spread from human to human. In February, the WHO was still ENCOURAGING people to travel.

    @davistev: The common colds are rhinoviruses, not corona. BUT your point does still stand. Vaccines for respiratory infections are uncommon. There still is no vaccine for SARS from 2002/3. The regular seasonal influenza vaccine generally doesn’t work. Putting our faith in a vaccine is a joke.

  41. @Lucky

    Can you address how travel insurance handles a border closing? I was mid trip when some of my upcoming countries closed their borders so I had to go back home, and I filed a trip interruption claim with my Chase Sapphire Reserve card and they said “government travel restrictions are not a covered loss….” even though I can’t find that wording in my policy at all. Are they just denying everything and hoping people give up, or is this denial valid?

  42. @Colin, Mike: David is absolutely right. The US were late… extremely late. Same as Western Europe. February 26 the US president was claiming the virus would disappear miraculously…
    No serious measures until it was exploding. What a shame.

    @AlexS: so it is all the fault of the WHO? come on be serious. You mention SARS (not to forget MERS) and based on hard lessons learned some countries were pro-active. They did not wait for WHO or others to tell them what to do. It may not be sufficient but compared to most of Europe and the US… they did and are doing a much better job at saving lives.

  43. @AlexS

    The seasonal influenza vaccine is very effective, against the strains of influenza that are selected for the vaccine m, but influenza mutates quickly. Every year a decision has to be made about which trains are included in the cocktail based on the best understanding of which strains are most likely to be spreading. It’s absolutely worth getting every year.

    As for overseas travel, I’ve assumed that it is off the table till at least 2021. It will be the last restriction that gets eased up and even when it does there are going to be an unreasonable number of hoops to jump through for a while. I’d very much like to say that I’m going back to Tokyo in January next year but it seems less and less likely.

  44. @Colin
    Dude… i landed in LAX end of Feb. I came from FRA. At the same time a CP 777 landed fully loaded with coughing Red China Paxes. So WTF? Sorry you guys got the best advisers and the best intel. agencies but now its fucked up like nowhere else on the planet. Western Europe screwed up badly as well but it seems the way they are cleaning up the mess is way better. And thats not fake news just plain numbers.
    Lets all hope that someone find a cure for that shit and we all can jet around the world Alain soon!

  45. Look at the data.

    I think is not about the US closing the border, it’s more about other countries closing borders to the USA.

  46. Leave it to ASDF to bring Trump into the discussion. Take you’re political ramblings to another site please!

  47. Brian says” Trump’s administration is so xenophobic. This is just a cover-up for its racist ideology.”. Your logic makes no sense at all. Does that mean that every other work leader who has closed their borders is xenophobic? Racist? More leftist BS.!

  48. Oh man. This discussion.

    Let’s look at the facts: nobody can measure how quickly the disease spreads. What we measure is our capability and willingness to measure it.

    I got crazy sick in late January / early February after a flight back from DC. There was a ‘dry cougher’ in the cabin and 5 days later, I developed my own. The next 6 days were nonstop fever and lung congestion, and I was out of commission at work for 3 weeks. My screening question to figure out if I had Covid-19 was “have you been to China”, so I didn’t get a test.

    Seriously. Ineptitude of the highest order if you think that “some country got it sooner” makes the game here. The only ones that can win at this act early and have a police state. Everyone else is picking up the pieces or doesn’t know they need to pick them up.

  49. @Robin

    You summarized 100% what is my feeling when travelling to the US. I only go if I really have to. All other places I’ve seen in this world were so much more “real” and people didn’t talk so loud.

    Robin says:
    April 17, 2020 at 3:09 pm
    Travelling the US sucks.

    It’s the same, dumb (lack of) culture wherever you go, so what’s the point?

    International travel is so, so valuable, and I fear that many of you are forgetting that as you plea for all borders to stay closed for years to come.

  50. For all my Travel enthusiasts out there. Something genius happened today. Remember all those toiletry bags we’ve all collected? Well, open it up and take out that eye mask and BAMM…. it doubles as a comfortable face mask protection to run errands during the scary Pandemic

  51. The European travel ban was announced to last 30 days and I haven’t seen anything since then; was it extended?

    I want a girl in England to come visit me and I know someone in an adjacent state who wants a visit from a girl in Scotland.

  52. @Arnie

    Please do everyone two favors:

    1). STFU

    2). Put your money where your mouth is and NEVER step foot in the US. You’re not good enough for our country. You deserve to be banned.

  53. According to a recent report from Columbia University hospitals in the New England Journal of Medicine, all pregnant women admitted for delivery were tested for SARS-CoV-2. About 15% tested positive and among those cases, almost 88% were asymptomatic. Keep in mind that there is a high rate of false negatives with the tests in wide use in the US. A serological study out of Stanford comports with the Columbia data. This is great news and implies that far more people are infected than the confirmed numbers indicate, which in turn implies a fatality rate much closer to seasonal influenza than the WHO’s case fatality rate of 3.4% This is not to say that COVID-19 is not more dangerous than the flu, but it is likely far less deadly than the media and public health officials have led us to believe. People who questioned the wisdom of destroying our economy and imposing the greatest suffering on those most economically vulnerable with such incomplete information were derided by many as greedy, heartless capitalists. I wonder how they will explain this away and maintain their smug sense of superiority.

  54. The US passport will become nearly useless at least in the short term. Unfortunately many countries are only looking at one’s passport country as opposed to one’s travel or even residency. This was the case a month ago at the Guatemalan border. Mexicans could cross but Americans and Europeans could not even if they had not been in their passport country this year.

  55. Not sure where you think you can go. Some countries won’t accept people from the US or demand they quarantine for two weeks upon arrival. Other countries are not taking what is going on seriously or are simply incapable of handling the pandemic and you put yourself at incredible risk of infection by traveling there. If a country is saying they have a very low number of cases then you have to question if the government is lying or if they simply refuse to test. Any place you want to go is likely drawing other tourists from all over the world including other virus hot spots. I’m skeptical about being able to travel to other countries anytime soon and until we have the virus fully under control here I am skeptical of any country that would keep its borders open to the US or other hotspots without requiring quarantine. May make for an interesting article though trying to identify which countries may be the most viable for travel in a few months. Would just be pure speculation though since there is no way to predict for sure what intervening events may occur.

  56. Borders must be protected to prevent illegal immigrants with bad or criminal intentions to cross them.
    But legal migration must be possible. Governments could agree on a health check at airports for example.
    Closed borders in general are more dangerous than the corona virus and lead to a world wide economic depression. Trading goods with other nations alone can not work, the service sector employs more people than agriculture and industry combined. Further you need some understanding of other cultures to be able to trade.

  57. Well, we were planning to spend 2 weeks in the US (we are based in Sweden) and spend approximately 4000 USD (excl. air tickets) over there.
    Sure we went through some difficult months all together but to prohibit tourist travel during the summer and people carrying money into other countries, wouldn’t that really be the nail in the coffin for many businesses in a lot of countries?

  58. @Lucky, I unfortunately have to concur with your observation. Which is a worst case scenario for us international consultants. I’ve not had any domestic clients for twenty years or so. Fortunately, I have some reserves, but both a complete career change in the mid 50s and early retirement at this age are no options …

  59. From the UK it looks like the US (& as always the White House) is missing the point.

    The US, in terms of population, area and even, in part, governance is equivalent to the whole of Europe. Here, open borders between nations have closed. For this type of “protection” to be effective, the US should be considering closing borders between States (in effect, “Nations”).

    But isn’t that unthinkable? On the other hand, Italy created Red-Zones, isolating part of the country. It might have worked if they’d managed it effectively.

    The European Union is very much like the United States. It had free movement people, free inter-state trade, a single currency (mostly), “coast to coast” highways, passport-less air travel. That’s all in the bin now. Will the US have to do the same?

  60. @JAY1951

    The US should have taken it even further than just closing states but even closing metro areas like NYC to combat the spread but that is unlikely to happen. You now even have idiots protesting the shutdowns failing to realize that if everyone would simply comply for a month or two this could end much more quickly. Sadder still is how the drug companies are putting profit over people in the search for a cure. Just search for “FBI Says Foreign States Hacked Into U.S. COVID-19 Research Centers: Report”.

  61. A nice photo of the good half of Shanghai Pudong Airport where the pleasant new Cathay Pacific lounge is located

  62. would be great to know when we can travel into USA again. Canceled April/May trip obviously. Now looking at July maybe August. Not sure if I can fly from Europe to some? Or all? States? Anyone in USA with more information?

  63. @john quoting the WHO is anjoke. The dont wesr a mask WHO whose leaders should be quickly arrested tried convicted and executed

  64. @David – correction: not a police state, but they do have substantially better-coordinated and pervasive surveillance efforts than the US.

    Look up what the public health officials were able to pull in order to make their contact tracing work.

  65. I don’t want to seem like a downer it but it isn’t US border closures that should concern travelers going forward. The US is correctly seen globally as the epicenter of the outbreak right now with the highest number of cases and an inept response by the federal and many local governments. Other countries aren’t going to to differentiate between different states even though there’s a wide spread between how they’ve handled the outbreak. Travelers from the United States should expect to face at the minimum, a 2 week self quarantine requirement while traveling abroad. Perhaps there will be enough rapid testing capacity to issue some sort of internationally accepted proof of health but those sorts of arrangements take time to set up.

    I don’t think international travel in the way we all know it will be possible until next summer at the earliest and it will really take a vaccine or widely available antiviral to allow things to go back to they were in 2019. Even then, I think the era of cheap air fares subsidized by corporate business class travelers has been permanently disrupted by solutions like teams and slack. They have nothing to do with the coronavirus but the lockdowns have forced luddites like me to use them and to appreciate how redundant they make 90% of the work travel we’ve done.

  66. I would expect that we should plan to be stuck in the US until there’s a vaccine or globally recognized herd immunity.

    This is, for now, the end of travel.

  67. Many of the replies here are deplorable. It’s as if some of you want borders to remain closed indefinitely, and are happy to sound the death knell of the travel industry. Do y’all not realize this is an aviation blog?

  68. I can imagine international travel with quarantine upon arrival being allowed by mid june early july. regular travel… honestly don’t know how it will be possible in any near future. Half of the industry is probably gonna go bankrupt and end of cheap flight tickets for a long while …. hopefully I m wrong as my job depends on plane flying

  69. I’m overseas in fiji and I’m dying to get back home to my family in Tennessee I’ve been here since March. Not only am I home sick but it’s boring here and I hate it are countries like fiji and NZ on the list of restricted visitors because I’ll have to fly Fiji,NZ then to America. Somebody please let me know.

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