The New U.S. Ban On Travel From India Is Pure Political Symbolism

President Biden campaigned on requiring masks. His administration instituted a mask requirement as one of its first acts for transportation not because transportation was identified as a key locus of virus spread but because it’s the place (in addition to federal property) where there was the strongest legal basis for doing it. Have you asked yourself why transportation gets the mask mandate but most other areas of life do not?

The TSA couldn’t do it on its own and neither could the FAA. It’s not even clear that the CDC’s legal basis for the transportation mask mandate is sound although it might ultimately be judged to be. But it had the strongest legal footing.

In other words, the transportation mask mandate is largely political and symbolic. And it will eventually be lifted for symbolic reasons, as part of ‘beating the virus’.

Similarly, the new ban on most travel by non-U.S. citizens or permanent resident who have recently been in India which goes into effect Tuesday is symbolic – porous and giving people advance notice to get into the country under the wire – was meant to appear that the administration is ‘doing something’.

This isn’t a Democrat versus Republican point, it’s about the science. The best you can say about the previous administration’s Covid-19 travel bans as well, the CDC blew the China ban, the Europe ban came too late, and both were too porous anyway especially for a country with land borders.

Covid-19 variants spreading in India are already here in the U.S. Travel bans won’t keep them out.

The way to stem virus transmission is vaccination. We’re incredibly fortunate that bioscientists developed incredible vaccines. I am thankful for this every day, and I wrote months ago that $1600 stimmie checks should have made vaccination a condition. West Virginia is giving $100 bonus to 16-35 year olds who get vaccinated.

Gateway to India, Mumbia

And why on earth are there restrictions on travel from China and the U.K. where the virus is less prevalent at this point than in the United States? Those physically present within the prior 14 days in China, Iran, the U.K., India, South Africa, Brazil, Ireland and the entire Schengen Area of Europe are banned from entry into the U.S. This list never included Bahrain, Israel, Qatar or Peru which had various points have had among the worst outbreaks in the world.

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. It may even boost tourism in the USA if they officially allow tourists who stay here for 21 days a free vaccine.

  2. A total ban without exemptions would be ideal but that would cause hardship to many citizens struck abroad .
    It’s all about numbers ,even a partial ban would decrease the number of passengers which means the number of potential positive cases,so I do not think it’s totally political or an eye wash

  3. A significant portion of what government does is spend our money while restricting our freedom all in a vain attempt to appear to be “doing something” about a problem that they cannot fix and often make worse (see also: poverty, education, healthcare, etc).

  4. Sound like The New Messiah is xenophobic. Did we not already have a policy in force that all air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens and fully vaccinated people, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result no more than 3 days before travel or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months before they board a flight to the United States?

  5. Safety theater at its finest. Clap for Biden because he is ending Covid. I agree with @Joey as well, if our own population is too reluctant to get vaccines, sell them off to foreigners – we have plenty of extras right now.

  6. What happened to banning travel to certain counties is xenophobic or racist? Oh right, doesn’t matter when you’re not campaigning against the incumbent.

  7. The US travel restrictions on India are not “pure political symbolism”. It’s actually the opposite of that. The US travel restrictions on travel from India are part of delivering on social influence models to drive behavioral change during a public health crisis, behavioral change of the sort that has public health benefits with regard to the disease of concern.

    This US travel restriction on travel from India sends a strong signal that people should avoid non-essential travel to India. This also sends a strong signal that the pandemic isn’t over and caution shouldn’t go to the wind.

    The restriction on travel from India was being avoided/delayed due to “pure political symbolism”. The pending implementation of the restriction on travel from India move the US away from “pure political symbolism” that had the US remain open to travel from India even in face of Modi’s extreme mismanagement of India during this pandemic.

  8. AlohaDaveKennedy,

    With regard to your question, “Did we not already have a policy in force that all air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens and fully vaccinated people, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result no more than 3 days before travel or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months before they board a flight to the United States?” Yes, but a large proportion of the test results being used to travel from India to elsewhere in the world are plagued with problems of one sort or the other — including outright fraud with those test results from India.

  9. Joey,

    People have been leaving India to come to the US in March and April and getting vaccinated in the US. Far easier to get vaccinated in the US than India drove some of those people to head to the US this year, including for those Indian visitors who have family and friends in the US but aren’t residents of the US.

    Texas and Florida have people flying in from Mexico and elsewhere to get vaccinated in the US. In Texas, there are even private flights coming in from Mexico to get Mexicans vaccinated during their US shopping/entertainment trips.

    Texas has been big on making money from international medical tourism for decades. Now it’s vaccination opportunities in Texas bringing in international tourist money.

  10. “if our own population is too reluctant to get vaccines, sell them off to foreigners”

    @Bill Whan I first read this, I thought it was pretty harsh language. I mean it doesn’t sound quite right to sell US citizens into slavery. But I thought it over and decided that maybe it could be a good idea. I remembered that the latest census does show that the country has “plenty of extras”.

  11. The covid variants from India are not in the US at great numbers across the country, so I don’t see understand the argument that because there may be cases here or there that we should import a whole bunch more some of which include double mutations. Looking at the crisis in India I don’t know why anyone would suggest doing so and have them travelling all over our country is a good idea. Of course this is from the same guy that constantly whines about masks so what should we expect. Even very strict countries with mandatory quarantine are finding that people who tested negative from india before boarding their flight are developing covid at their destination. India just had 400,000 covid cases in a single day. With all the people unvaccinated in the US do we really want to have a variant like that here in large numbers?

  12. Canada got this right – the flights from India were arriving compeletly full. the Canadian government banned flights from India within 24 hours. The US should have followed suit immediately.

    I feel horribly for the people in India – but we do not need more Covid spreaders in the US.

  13. Lots of Indians in Gary’s age range and younger are dying in India with COVID-19, even the non-overweight ones. And part of it is that there is a variant that is causing rampant spread among adults who are in their 20s, 30s and 40s and then taking out many of them in a place that has gone too cheap on healthcare for too long and has the dangerously incapable-of-governing-but-in-love-with-pure-political-symbolism Modi government in charge.

  14. Nah. It makes sense. Your statement that the virus / variant is already here so the ban is of
    No use is analogous to saying “the water pipe has already burst so it’s no use to shut off the main valve”
    This / these variant(s) are nasty as hell. Kids are getting infected at a high pace.

  15. last year this time media has a lot to say when previous administration bans travelers from China, now they just keep so quiet when Biden bans travelers from India. Does that mean U.S media are mostly controlled by CCP??

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