It’s Absurdly Past Time To Lift U.S. Covid-19 Travel Bans

Travelers are banned from entering the U.S. if in the prior 14 days they’ve been in China, Iran, the European Schengen area, U.K. and Ireland, Brazil, South Africa or India. That’s true even,

  • though the U.S. requires testing of everyone entering by air
  • if the traveler has had a full course of an mRNA vaccine
  • and is coming from a place with far less Covid-19 than the U.S.

This makes no sense. Americans can go to Europe and they can return – in some cases even if they’re unvaccinated. But vaccinated Europeans can’t fly to the U.S. And this is somehow for our protection?

Vaccinated Americans are no longer recommended to wear masks inside of restaurants or even stadiums, because the risk of infection is so low and the risk of being a carrier and spreading to others is so low. Yet they have to wear a mask and show proof of a negative Covid-19 test to return to their country by air. (If they fly to Mexico and drive across the border that’s ok, even if they have Covid-19.)

And who is being protected? Largely Americans who have chosen not to be vaccinated. And what are they being protected from?

The travel ban doesn’t protect the U.S. from variants. The U.K. travel ban didn’t stop the B.1.1.7 ‘Alpha’ variant. The India travel ban didn’t stop the Indian ‘Delta’ variant. And indeed, the virus mutates independently in similar ways around the world. It mutates here because people aren’t vaccinated and become hosts for the virus and its mutation.

There’s simply no evidence that a ban on travel from these countries has limited Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. And the travel bans have never included countries with arguably similar or much worse experiences with Covid-19 like Peru, Bulgaria, Colombia, Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, or Russia.

Unvaccinated Russians and Argentines are welcomes into the U.S, while vaccinated French who test negative for Covid-19 are not – even as Americans return home from France in droves.

The Europe and China travel ban made no sense last summer. The China travel ban was bungled by the CDC and the European ban came too late to mater.

Spread is increasing in the United States, but that just means that foreigners arriving from more places are less likely to carry the virus than the median unvaccinated American – double and triply so for vaccinated foreigners who test negative for Covid-19. U.S. policy here has become a farce. It was one thing when these political, not science-based, policies were being propagated by the Trump administration but the Biden administration is no better. Indeed in some ways they’re worse.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Ya think? With the Delta variant increasing across America, especially in the states where people haven’t been vaccinated, I say it’s time to start doubling down. #BetterSafeThanSorry

  2. This would have been a good post two weeks ago, but now with cases rising worldwide again it’s not the most timely piece.

  3. American may be at the centre of the universe’s a$$wholes but it isn’t the centre of mankind just because it wants to be. This author is why the world dislikes Americans

  4. Give it a couple months and Americans will be banned from most places again when the next wave hits thanks to the unvaccinated.

    Not that they care, they don’t leave their trailer parks anyway

  5. With your logic…the worse the numbers the more open the borders should be.
    The countries that have opened up mostly are doing so out of necessity for tourism. The US does not need to and Biden sees no political upside to doing this, your whining notwithstanding.
    In Gary’s white male world, “Please bring back Trump!”

  6. Cases are rising here.

    1 – that’s an argument for vaccination
    2 – it’s not an argument for “fear of foreigners” who have been vaccinated, test negative for the virus, and come from places with less Covid than the US (so the visitor is less likely to be a threat than whomever you encounter locally)

  7. You use your platform to spread false information about the COVID-19 virus. You are neither a scientist or a physician. You have no knowledge about the way that this disease is spread. You want everyone to go about their business as if there is no concern about disease for those that are vaccinated or unvaccinated. If everyone would get vaccinated, like 98% of physicians, then maybe things could get close to normal. But until those non-believers start to trust science, we will never get back to normal.

  8. So much paranoia in the comments. Wow. I do think we need to take it one step at a time. Get rid of masks for vaccinated passengers first. Remember how safe planes are.

  9. Cases mean nothing. It is all about hospitalizations. Fact is that the Delta variant is much less deadly than previous variants (look it up if you don’t believe it).
    There is NO reason whatsoever to shutdown anything any longer. If people are scared, they should stay home or at least wear masks and practice common sense hygiene.
    For people who are unvaccinated, it is a different story. But then again many unvaccinated people are because they choose to be.

    Either way, the endless fear porn clickbait by the mainstream media needs to stop.

  10. People seem to have given up on testing as a way to beat down the virus. If we had fast, accurate tests, many restrictions could be relaxed as we could identify who is actually infected rather than being forced to assume everyone is.

  11. We can never make travel entirely safe— no matter how long these travel bans for the fully vaccinated continue. When vaccinated people are subject to the same travel bans as the unvaccinated, then it’s just CYA politics.

  12. Locally 98.8% of covid deaths are unvax’d. That means that under ten people a day are dying of this nationwide who are vax’d. To me, keeping the country shut down for that few of deaths is insane. But the intent of the travel ban is to discourage travel, it has no actual effect on the spread of the virus directly. The author misses this point entirely in his rants. I’m not saying I agree with the band, I’m just stating the reason for them.

    There will always be covid cases even if everyone were vax’d. What matters you is deaths. If people aren’t dying cases are a stupid metric.

  13. I don’t read Gary’s piece as a pro-Trump, white-male, UScentric spiel at all.

    Gary is saying we should be using common sense–why ban travelers from countries with lower risks, but allow travelers from higher risk areas, like Russia, carte blanche to enter the US? Where is the logic behind these decisions? Answer: there isn’t any.

    Also, the Delta variant isn’t as deadly as earlier variants. The group most affected by the Delta variant in the US is the age 30-39 year-olds, which, no surprise there, is the adult group least vaccinated. If these folks want to remain unvaccinated, fine, let ’em, but asking me to mask up when I’ve already had my 2 mRNA doses just isn’t fair. Why penalize me for someone else’s duckead decision?

    There are those who say, we need to protect everyone, like those with compromised immune systems. I agree, I know this firsthand: my 85 year-old mom is recovering from early stage 4 breast cancer. But guess what? My mom went and got the Moderna shots! Because she figured if she didn’t get the vaccine she would most certainly die from Covid. But if she got the shot she might not die from Covid.

    Folks, this virus isn’t ever going away. We are going to have to live with it, like the slew of rhinoviruses circulating on our planet. Are we going to continue to wear masks ad infinitum? Or get vaxxed and eventually try to live some semblance of normalcy, and watch and wait as the variants weaken over time, because the virus doesn’t want to kill off its hosts?

    The biggest benefit of the vaccine, and the vaccinated, is the reduction of costs to our health care systems and lost capital. With fewer severely ill people, the lower the financial drain on our health care systems. You think health insurance is high now? All the unvaxxed yahoos who end up in ICU who don’t have health insurance–who pays their bills? Wait a couple more years, health care costs will be astronomical, unaffordable for all but the richest.

    Don’t punish the unvaxxed; instead, give the vaxxed people preferential treatment. It’s not like it’s economic discrimination–the vax doesn’t cost anything! We see this in other areas of our lives–safe drivers get auto insurance discounts. Nonsmokers have lower health insurance premiums. Maybe the unvaxxed will get the message.

    So yeah, I’m with Gary on this one.

  14. Yea wouldn’t want those disease spreading Norwegians or Swiss coming to our country. Hondurans walking over the border though? Here’s some free stuff, please vote for democrats.

  15. I think you will see a wide bit of borders reopen starting in September to vaccinated travelers for the US and other countries. I don’t think that most countries want to reopen to an immediate surge in travel. Opening in the fall will allow for a gradual increase in travel.
    It’s obvious that unvaccinated travelers will not be allowed to travel by a wide range of countries.
    It’s also obvious that many countries may require travel health insurance policies as well.
    If you look at the Cayman Islands plan – they seem to have put in writing what many countries are doing.

  16. @ Gary — I agree 100%. Let the morons who chose to be unvaccinated get sick and possibly die, and let those who chose to get vaccinated return to a normal life. Enough is enough.

  17. two shots of Pfizer in europe? what’s the problem? if that gets me into Costco in Nothern VA then why can’t my father-in-law fly in from paris? Gary is sensible and consistentwith the science.

    as for those we are tryingso hard to protect but who refuse to be vaccinated. Bless them all. and give them the freedom to pay for the full cost of hospitalization. because i don’t want to pay higher insurance rates to cover their medical care. It’s theDarwin principle at work.

  18. TLDR: You’re still not a doctor, and just itching to getting back to being a credit card shill. Be quiet.

  19. Why open up when hotels are full but can’t even staff to service the over the top domestic demand. Or when airlines are already filling 777’s to Pensacola (sarcasm – but slightly true). To quote Faith Popcorn, “the need to protect oneself from the harsh, unpredictable realities of the outside world.” So true, and as long as the money is still flowing here there is no incentive for anyone. Look at Australia. I don’t agree. But follow the money.

  20. I agree with those that say that unvaccinated people should not be allowed to travel, or at least that it should be up to the country of destination,.
    In fact, this is already the case for other diseases like Yellow Fever. Can’t show your vax in the “Yellow Booklet”? No entry for you.

  21. Physician here. Completely agree with you. Tourists who have been vaccinated/tested — testing is a requirement to enter America — pose much less of a risk (and are more likely to get infected in America) than bring infections.

  22. @Abraham
    “You are neither a scientist or a physician.”……..and neither are you.

  23. It’s absurdly past time for you to acknowledge the fact that there are variants which can be brought in in spite of vaccination status and the US government is doing what it can to protect its own stupid citizens who choose to spread lies about vaccines and remain unvaccinated

  24. There’s no evidence travel ban works? How did you think COVID got out of China in the first place? It’s because of international travel out of China. Why do you think UK felt Delta surge sooner than the US? It’s because UK continued allowing inbound flights from India. Taiwan, a country over 20 million people and less than 100 miles away from China, never had daily cases over 500 people since the start of pandemic because of travel ban of all foreign travelers.

  25. Gary is dead on. It’s long overdue. I’ve traveled throughout the pandemic, most of it international. In the past month airports and planes have been very full. If I’m a risk averse bureaucrat or enjoying the limelight like Fauci, I look at this and say why rush lifting the restriction. Same with the mask mandate. So much of this is nonsensical. Social distance getting off the plane only to be herded into a jam packed bus to the terminal. You’re not allowed to have even a simple bottle of water in the lounge at FRA. Either drink from the sink in the bathroom or leave the lounge. So add this to the ever growing list.

  26. Never got past the first paragraph. Stop the Polilla commentary and stick to travel information. Who comes to the US isn’t in your sphere. You are becoming less and less interesting with this mask tirade and virus policies.

  27. Well, those countries are all documented cesspools and the new and improved Delta variant is super charged dangerous (even vaccinated people can get it) and I ask the question “do we really need all these people flying everywhere willy nilly?”
    Sure, Mr. Gary, you have no bias on this issue-NOT. The more people fly, the more money you make. I miss the flying regulations days. Kept all the amateurs out. Now you are advocating throwing away ALL caution and letting people instantly infect new neighborhoods. I will pass……

  28. I disagree.
    It is time to buckle up cause the unvaccinated will feel the Delta wave the most. Many deaths will come because of it.
    It is sad because even those ethical adults who are vaccinated (12 and older) may have members who simply cannot get vaccinated who are 11 and younger.
    And when the parents/family of their unvaccinated (children, 11 and younger) cry over their children who forever are health compromised with lingering symptoms in the aftermath or worst die from the Delta variant of concern (VOC). Someone or something or some voice needs to be place blame upon on.
    I nominate those like you as your concerns are selfish and deeming to the sacrifices the public health entity that works tirelessly to contain this virulent disease. Yet, here you are wanting to accelerate the spread by opening travel/scaling back restrictions like it is 2019.
    What vaccines are they giving in France or whatever part of the rest of the world has access to? Was it FDA EUA approved? That is the issue.
    Lets protect our own before inviting others to our home. Stop the leak or good god slow it down, so we can figure this out. As for rules that allow Americans to travel, we cannot control the rules that other countries/entities set for Americans.
    By the way, the previous administration is a huge reason we are deep in this. If they sided with science early, outcomes today for the whole population would had experienced less of an impact with more favorable figures.
    How do you thin the herd of deplorables? This. is. one. way. Choices were made and consequences will be paid.
    For all those ethical adults, brace yourselves and protect your unvaccinated family. Your family will be in my prayers.

  29. “Jorge Paez says:
    The more people fly, the more money you make.”


    He makes commissions if people sign up and are approved for a credit card, using his site.

    He does not share in revenue from tickets purchased by those who fly.

  30. I hope you sent this to the CDC, Biden, Harris, FAA so that they can actually do something. Or sue like that Wall guy. Otherwise, nothing will change.

  31. Yes, but isn’t it more overdue to get rid of return testing for U.S. citizens, particularly vaccinated ones? When will that charade end?

  32. The travel ban is a xenophobic outrage by yet another xenophobic administration (that falsely claims to know better) which highlights its basic incompetence and spirit of ill will. Joe Biden and his lackeys are an embarrassment to the world, and an affront to basic conceptions of human rights. More proof that Joe Biden is no more fit to be President than was his predecessor.

  33. @ Mak — Whatever you think, at least Joe Biden isn’t a lifelong crook surrounded by lifelong crooks, like Trump and his cronies.

  34. If you’re vaccinated you’re protected. All you idiots who are concerned about rising cases and variants need to “follow the science”.

  35. Now is not the time to lower our guard.

    Covid has been with us for more than a year and is still not under control.

  36. @Gene

    Have you met the Biden family? Yes, Trump is sleazy and the worst kind of businessman, but Biden is, short of Maxine Waters, the definition of sleazy career politician, he just happens to be nice about it. Hunter Biden’s laptop is real and authentic.

  37. France is not as open as you think. Starting August 1 you need a Sanitary Pass to enter a restaurant or museum or other public building. With the QR code from their vaccine any European can set this up. But Americans have no QR on their vaccine paperwork so their only option at the moment is to get a negative test at a pharmacy that will be good for 72 hours at the most. So as long as you are ok with paying 30 euro every 72 hours on vacation and constantly visiting a pharmacy then you’ll have a great time walking by the best restaurants that are still closed.

  38. There is no scientific basis to prevent vaccinated and negative tested EU residents in green, yellow and orange areas in The EU from entering the US. Unlike the US the EU has guidelines and tracks each area (counties) infection rate each week and that guides inter EU travel. 33 countries are banned now but the 26 EU countries have low rates, honest tracking and substantial vaccination rates, yet they are banned when the rest of the world is not (except China, Iran, Brazil, India…). For example Indonesia has Bali and Jakarta on lockdown and things are bad, but sn unvaccinated Indonesian can fly to the US but a vaccinated European (tested negative within 3 days) can not. It makes no sense and is costing the US 100+ billion a month

  39. @C_M
    Yeah, there are no sleazy GOP pols. As a former Republican, now a proud Independent I find that comment amusing to say the least!. Shitheads fly on both sides of the aisle. No more voting straight GOP for me thanks to the latest example of GOP pols who support the great genius Chump! I’m sure you know all the Chump Fools I’m talking about!

  40. Gary’s critics are missing the key point – the list of countries banned has no correlation with actual present day risk levels , and is not based on science but essentially on what we thought we knew 15 months ago. To say that a vaccinated German cannot come but a unvaccinated Russian can is simply nonsense. I know the Trump administration didn’t believe in science, but the Biden administration claims it does.

  41. Just give it up. Cases are spreading all across the US and Europe is being forced back into shutdown as cases surge there. Kids are being hospitalized and some are even being put on ventilators because of the delta variant. You have done nothing but push for more travel since this started and you were wrong then and you continue to be wrong. The virus doesn’t make its way around the world on its own. It comes from travel and with other parts of the world churning out new variants maybe just maybe it isn’t a good idea to throw the borders open to them until they get the situation under control in their own countries. Not remotely interested in allowing people in from countries that are breeding grounds for new variants that have governments that are unwilling or unable to keep the situation under control.

  42. @Brian You said: “If you’re vaccinated you’re protected. All you idiots who are concerned about rising cases and variants need to “follow the science”.” Umm you do understand you can still get infected by the virus and pass it on to other people even if you are vaccinated right? You do understand that there is still a very small number of people but still possible that you can die from covid if vaccinated right? Oh and you do understand that the virus mutates and some mutated strains may eventually circumvent the vaccines right????????? (see Beta variant and how its getting around some of the vaccines). Maybe instead of calling people idiots you should get educated.

  43. Reuters ran an article on 6/25/2021 that quoted 1,000,000 (unvaccinated) illegal immigrants have entered the USA, fiscal year 2021. Hmmm, shhhhh, absolutely no mention or pictures in main stream media “lack of coverage” reporting on where they being “relocated” to, but you can count on it being to a city close to you. Canada is watching the USA and doesn’t want a part of what the USA is allowing….

  44. “It mutates here because people aren’t vaccinated and become hosts for the virus and its mutation”?? What a completely false and unproven statement!! More likely it is mutating because of the injection! Never, ever introduce a vaccine, especially an mRNA, in the middle of a pandemic! EVER.

    The injection simply doesn’t work. Israel is a mess. “Pfizer vaccine protection takes a hit as Delta variant spreads, Israeli government says” as quoted by Communist News Network CNN.
    How about those Texas senators who flew charter. All juice up and got Covid anyway. Happening world wide to people shot up and will get a lot, lot worse when fall comes and combined with a booster and the flu shot. Lethal combination.

    The statements alleging that 99.2 percent of those who died of COVID-19 in the U.S. in May 2021 had not been vaccinated. All of these articles cite an “analysis” done by the Associated Press (AP) and published on June 24, 2021, written by AP reporters Carla K. Johnson and Mike Stobbe. Their “analysis” is simply fudged numbers. Even the great and powerful OZ, Fauci himself even quote the AP BUT without citing the AP as the source. Which gives the illusion they are government findings. Which they are NOT.

    GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance. They are the ones running this entire show out of Geneva. They dictate the narrative to the WHO, CDC, mainstream news.

    The F’ing masks DON”T work. Look at the most masked country in the world. Japan. The whole country is masked up. Won’t even have spectators at the Olympics. Masks are useless for Covid.

    Diabetics make up 40% of COVID deaths in the US.

    The number of deaths in the world in the last 3 months of 2020

    314,687 : Corona virus (how many were co-mobilities???)
    340,584 : Malaria
    353,696 : suicide
    393,479 : road accidents
    240,950 : HIV
    558,471 : alcohol
    816,498 : smoking
    1,167,714: Cancer
    2019: estimated1.8M TB deaths
    2020: estimated1.4M TB deaths

    If you do contract Coronavirus, this still is not a cause for panic because of the active CV-19 cases:

    81% are MILD
    14% are MODERATE
    Only 5% are CRITICAL

    Which means if you get it you will most likely recover from it.

    Lastly, more kids are dying from Covid injections than would possibly have died from Covid. How many more before parents wake the F up!

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