Will a coronavirus travel ban work?

March 12, 2020, 2:47 PM UTC

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Hello, readers.

The latest chapter in the ongoing coronavirus saga was written last night as President Donald Trump announced a travel ban from most European countries to the United States.

This ban applies to more than two dozen nations in Europe’s Schengen region, although some countries (such as the U.K.) have exemptions. Given the severity of the move, it’s worth asking—will it actually do anything?

Probably not, according to World Health Organization (WHO) experts, as my colleague David Meyer reports.

As he notes, the WHO has consistently and emphatically pushed back against the notion that travel restrictions will have any kind of significant effect on COVID-19 containment. And at this point, frankly, it’s just too late for such a policy to matter.

“Now the focus should be on identifying patients, isolating them, treating them and contact tracing. That should be the focus now for any country where the virus has already set foot,” a WHO spokesperson told David.

I’ve often said that public health prudence is a far superior philosophy to public health panic. But for that prudence to manifest itself, it’s critical to understand the nuances of the situation and the nature of the threat.

Right now, one of the biggest concerns is that as the virus continues to spread across the U.S., the strain on our fragmented health care system—including a lack of sufficient hospital beds—could be immense. And that’s an issue we’re going to have to grapple with.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


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