It’s clearly time that Europeans should be allowed to enter the U.S. There’s no good virus-related reason to keep them out. But what about letting American’s visit Europe? The European Commission is recommending new guidelines for save travel, and the U.S. is on its way towards meeting their criteria.
U.S. Travel Bans Haven’t Helped Stop Spread Of Covid-19
Back in the spring it was clear that the U.S. ban on travelers from Europe no longer made any sense. The China travel ban was poorly executed and the Europe ban came too late to matter. The virus spread within the U.S., there was no more ‘keeping it out.’
When cases receded in China and Europe, while spreading at a faster pace in the U.S., it arguably made sense for countries to keep out Americans – but made little sense for Americans to keep out non-residents who had been to China or Europe.
The U.S. never imposed travel restrictions on Qatar, Bahrain, Panama, Chila, Kuwait, and Peru – all countries with greater cases per capita than the U.S. and more than Europe and China as well. The U.S. policy just makes no sense.
Europe’s Policies Haven’t Been Helpful, Either
European policies make little sense, either. As coronavirus cases surge again in parts of Europe, especially Spain and France but also in Germany, some countries within Europe are closing their borders to other European nations. And the restrictions vary based on positive tests per capita, “from 25 cases per 100,000 in Latvia, to 16/100,000 in Lithuania and 40/100,000 in Slovenia.”
So the European Commission is recommending a common set of rules to be applied.
Countries or “given areas” with a weekly testing rate over 250/100,000 people should not be blocked: if new cases total less than 50/100,000 in 14 days; or if positive tests are less than 3% of the total.
The U.S. Is On Its Way To Meeting ‘Safe Entry’ Standards
Let’s apply the criteria that the European Commission is proposing to the United States to see if U.S. citizens should be permitted to enter Europe.
- There are 331 million people in the United States.
- The U.S. would be required to test a minimum of 827,500 people per week. In the past week the U.S. has tested 5.2 million.
- The U.S. positivity rate has hovered between 5% and 6%, so the 3% threshold doesn’t qualify us. However that’s not the only way to qualify for entry.
- They recommend 50 cases per 100,000 people within the previous 14 days. That would be 166,500 cases in the U.S. or an average of 23,643 per day.
The U.S. does not meet this criteria today. It did, however, meet the case number criteria in early June. Under standards being proposed now, if applied to countries beyond Europe, Americans would have been allowed in for tourism.
Taking the criteria that the European Commission is deeming ‘safe’ then the U.S. could either get its daily positivity rate down to where it was in early June – and it’s been on a downward trend – or it could further ramp up testing, doubling the number of tests conducted to about 1.6 million per week. New technology is about to scale testing in ways that makes that possible.
We Should Have Objective Criteria, Not Individual Country Bans
While it’s likely that European nations impose stricter conditions on entry of non-Europeans than they do citizens of Europe, that shouldn’t be the case. Unfortunately I’m not predicting that this intra-Europe rule will be applied to the U.S.
The U.S. has applied a non-sensical rule to Europe. And it’s been odd to ban travel from Europe while not banning regions and countries with more Covid-19 than Europe. However both (and all) sides should apply an objective criteria for opening up travel and apply it consistently.
Bans of specific countries, that have to be lifted based on bureaucratic discretion – rather than objective critiera – are a blunt tool that hasn’t helped limit spread of Covid-19.