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Why experts think travel bans won’t stop coronavirus spread

As nations introduce travel bans to Britain, the moves bring back memories of how the world reacted in the spring, the NYT reports.

Most of those initial travel prohibitions came too late, put in place after the coronavirus seeded itself in communities. This time, with countries trying to stop the spread of a new, possibly more contagious variant identified by Britain, it may also be too late.

It is not known how widely the variant is already circulating, experts say. And the bans threaten to cause more economic and emotional hardship as the toll wrought by the virus continues to grow.

“It is idiotic” is the blunt assessment of Dr. Peter Kremsner, the director of Tübingen University Hospital in Germany. “If this mutant was only on the island, only then it makes sense to close the borders to the UK. But if it has spread, then we have to combat the new mutant everywhere.”

He notes that the scientific understanding of the mutation is limited, and its dangers unclear. He describes as naïve the notion that the variant was not already spreading widely outside Britain.

Negative coronavirus test for entry

Dr. Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Europe, says that member states would try to come up with a coherent approach to any threat. At the moment, he wrote on Twitter: “limiting travel to contain spread is prudent until we have better info.”  But he notes, “no one is safe until everyone is safe.”

With growing calls for the United States to join the nations imposing bans on travel from Britain, Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert, urges caution. He says there is a good chance the variant is already there.

Many countries already require a negative coronavirus test for entry. But cutting off all travel between nations is a more fraught proposition.

The European Commission, urged members of the bloc to lift blanket bans on Britain. But for the moment, nations seem to prefer setting their own rules.

Late Tuesday, France eased back on a border closing that had stranded more than a thousand truck drivers. Now, it says, select groups of people can cross the border if they had been recently tested for the virus.

The situation is convulsing a travel industry already battered by the pandemic. It is forcing millions to change their holiday plans and injecting a fresh dose of anxiety at the end of a bleak year.

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