The Travel Restrictions Have Returned, And They Still Don't Work
Corporate media’s fear porn over China’s COVID outbreak is accomplishing this much: Governments around the world are well and truly terrified by the outbreak.
So terrified are they over China’s COVID outbreak they are bringing back a failed strategy from the earliest days of the pandemic: travel restrictions.
On December 28, the CDC announced that anyone taking a flight from China to the United States will need to show a negative PCR test 48 hours before their flight.
Starting at 12:01 AM ET on January 5, all air passengers two years and older originating from the PRC will be required to get a test (such as a PCR test or an antigen self-test administered and monitored by a telehealth service or a licensed provider and authorized by the Food and Drug Administration or the relevant national authority) no more than 2 days before their departure from the PRC, Hong Kong, or Macau, and show a negative test result to the airline upon departure.
On the same day, Italy also implemented PCR testing requirements after it found that nearly half of passengers on two flights to Milan from China tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Italian health authorities will begin testing all arrivals from China for Covid after almost half of the passengers on two flights to Milan were found to have the virus.
Italy’s Health Minister Orazio Schillaci defended the policy as essential to prevent the spread of the virus.
“The measure is essential to ensure the surveillance and identification of any variants of the virus in order to protect the Italian population,” Schillaci said, adding that further details of the plan will be provided later.
Clearly, Italy does not want a repeat of its 2020 experience, when it seemed travelers from China brought the SARS-CoV-2 virus into northern Italy.
In short order, India, Taiwan, and Japan all added their own travel restrictions on flights originating in China.
As of December 31, these are the countries that have some measure restricting travel from China based on COVID status.
The rationale in every country is the same: concern (fear) over possible mutations and variants, given the extraordinary spread and number of infected hosts in China itself.
“There is concern about the evolution of infections in China and about the difficulty of assessing the situation given the scarce information currently available,” Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias said.
The US restrictions are similarly motivated, and US officials are reportedly considering adding wastewater testing on international aircraft to further monitor the movement of viral variants.
The US is also considering sampling wastewater from international aircraft to track new variants and has expanded its voluntary genomic sequencing programme at airports, adding Seattle and Los Angeles. This brings the total number of airports gathering information from positive tests to seven.
Neither the US, nor Span, nor India, nor any of the other countries, which to run the risk of a new variant arising in China and from there reawakening the pandemic elsewhere. Hence people from China are screened to keep the virus out.
There is, however, one small flaw in the governing logic behind the travel restrictions: the variaynt running wild in China, Omicron subvariants BF.7 and BA.5.2, are already circulating in the countries imposing the travel restrictions. BF.7 and BA.5.2 came from the rest of the world into China, not the other way around.
The current surge in Covid-19 infections in China is believed to be driven by the BF.7 sub-variant of Omicron that is circulating in that country. But this isn’t the first time that BF.7 has made news — in October, it started to replace the variants that were then dominant in the United States and several European countries.
BF.7 has been detected in the US since at least October, as has BA.5.2.
In the United Kingdom, BF.7 was mentioned in Technical Briefing 46, dated 7 October 2022, as a varient showing potential signs of growth within the UK.
From UK data, BQ.X, BA.2.75.2 and BF.7 are the most concerning variants in terms of both growth and neutralisation data at present; there is also supportive animal model data for BA.2.75. (LOW confidence due to early and incomplete data on other variants). They will be prioritised for vaccine effectiveness assessment.
Thus the variants currently wreaking havoc in China were circulating in India, the UK, and the United States for at least a month and a half before the current outbreak in China began in late November.
The travel restrictions being imposed are already a failure because the BF.7 and BA.5.2 variants circulated from the US, the UK, et al, into China, which means there is zero risk of them moving the other way around.
Moreover, BF.7 has not been the most successful variant outside of China. As late as mid-November, BF.7 only accounted for some 6-7% of COVID test samples in the US.
BF.7 similarly failed to gain much traction in India.
The January 2022 wave in India was driven by the BA.1 and BA.2 sub-variants of Omicron. The sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5 that followed were never as prevalent in India as they were in European countries; thus, India saw very few cases of BF.7 (which is an offshoot of BA.5).
Thus the variant circulating in China is already being pushed aside elsewhere by other COVID variants. While this begs a fascinating question of why BF.7 is having such success in China when it failed to dominate anywhere else, that failure makes the China outbreak a very low risk to other countries.
The pre-existence of BF.7 outside of China, however, highlights an important aspect of travel restrictions: as with so many of the mitigations promoted by the “experts”, they really do not work.
“Travel restrictions are pretty pointless, in the context of limited to no infection control in the countries that are imposing them,” said Aris Katzourakis, a professor of evolution and genomics at the University of Oxford.
“This will have negligible impact in the short term to local case counts in the countries that enforce such travel measures.”
The one argument that could be made for travel restrictions, that of keeping a novel virus or variant out of a country, simply does not apply in the current situation involving China.
Dr Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, says that travel-related restrictions, which are “of arguable effectiveness in the first place,” can be typically applied for two different purposes.
The first, in attempting to keep domestic cases low – “which is irrelevant right now for the UK due to its large case numbers,” said Dr Peacock. More than 1.3 million people in Britain tested positive for Covid last week, estimates suggest.
The second, in attempting to keep novel variants out of a country. On this basis, the decision to impose travel restrictions against China would make sense, except “there’s currently no evidence” to suggest a new and dangerous strain of the virus has emerged in the Chinese population, adds Dr Peacock.
Indeed, while China is being excoriated for not being fully transparent with its data, the data it has shared, particularly the viral sequences uploaded to global pathogen database GISAID, indicates most of the variants circulating in China are all known globally.
Gisaid, a global pathogen database that allows scientists to identify and track emerging Covid variants, said virus sequences shared by China with the platform “all closely resemble known globally circulating variants seen in different parts of the world between July and December”.
A summary depiction of the shared viral sequences from China confirms this, although there are a number of samples from Shanghai which appear to not be related to BF.7.
Outside of Shanghai, the BF.7 and BA.5.2 lineages are the most prevalant in China’s recent submissions to GISAID, and both lineages are known to exist globally.
Current WHO policy, moreover, advocates for a “risk-based” approach to travel restrictions.
WHO recommends that Member States:
• Do not treat international travellers as a priority group for SARS-CoV-2 testing, as they are not suspected COVID-19 cases by default. In resource-limited contexts, avoid diverting testing resources from settings where testing can have a higher public health impact.
• Only implement testing and/or quarantine measures to international travellers on a riskbased manner, taking into account the above-mentioned considerations, including those for exemption for individuals with vaccine-induced or natural immunity, as defined above. Policies for testing and quarantine should be regularly reviewed to ensure they are lifted when they are no longer necessary.
• If quarantine of international travellers is implemented in the arrival country, ensure that a risk-based approach is used in decision-making, and that the dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms of travellers are respected and any discomfort or distress minimized, as per the provisions of the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) (12).
Research from 2020 on travel restrictionsduring the initial phases of the pandemic showed that whatever efficacy travel restrictions had on controlling disease spread, it was extremely time limited.
Models have found that strict border closures could have helped limit viral transmission in the pandemic’s early days. But once the virus started spreading in other countries, border closures provided little benefit.
The time has long past for travel restrictions to have any mitigation potential regarding the China outbreak.
Yet the political pressure to impose travel restrictions, fueled in no small part by the corporate media’s fear porn over China, continues.
The Government has been urged to break its “bizarre” delay in dealing with China’s Covid-19 threat and to “lead from the front” to protect our way of life by a Conservative politician. Tobias Ellwood, Bournemouth East MP, warned that China was not to be trusted after the nation repeatedly misled the international community about the virus and obstructed its data in recent weeks. Covid infections in China have skyrocketed since it abandoned its zero-Covid policy earlier this month, which included scrapping strict lockdowns, quarantining and regular PCR testing.
In France, the travel restrictions reversed the Government’s previous stance that there was no extraordinary risk from the China outbreak.
France also announced a mandatory negative COVID-19 test for all travelers from China, who must also wear a mask during flights to the country. The government had previously said that there was no need for restrictions, as the country believed the number of travelers coming from China was negligible.
For there to be a major health risk emanating from the COVID outbreak in China, a novel variant would have to be involved. While there have been, according to Chinese officials, some 130 sublineages of the Omicron variant identified from this current outbreak, they are all offshoots of the dominant (and globally preexisting) subvariants.
More than 130 sublineages of the coronavirus' omicron variant were detected in China in the past three months, Xu Wenbo, the head of the National Institute for Viral Disease Control and Prevention, revealed during a news conference on Dec. 20.
Among them, 50 had triggered local infection clusters, the official said.
These sublineages will likely co-circulate in China in the future along with the current dominant COVID-19 strains, BA.5.2 and BF.7, Xu was cited as saying by the newspaper China Daily, which is owned by the state's ruling political party.
While even in China, the COVID virus is going to virus, even in China, it is still a known virus.
It is possible, of course, that China is suppressing essential information, and that a novel variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is circulating in China. However, even that should prove to be the case, given that this outbreak in China is now over a month old, if there were a novel variant that was extremely pathogenc and virulent, it is still already too late for travel restrictions to make a difference. That variant would have already escaped mainland China into the wider world.
China’s transparency, or lack thereof, simply has no bearing on whether travel restrictions on China would be effective at this late date.
The travel restrictions, even if well-intentioned, are still merely a fear-driven, emotional reaction to the media’s fear-gasm over the China outbreak. They are political theater, not effective public health response. They have no chance of being effective, because, as is typically the case with infectious respiratory disease, by the time such restrictions can be implemented, the pathogen has already crossed the relevant borders. That certainly is the case today.
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Mallapaty, S. “What the Data Say about Border Closures and COVID Spread .” Nature, vol. 589, no. 185, 2021, https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-020-03605-6.
This is getting so tiresome. The brains of these world masters of disaster and the media whores and pharma monsters they rode in on have been melted into a cheesy goo of putrid stew stirred enthusiastically by a cackling Satan. What would Shakespeare do with all this?
The fear porn starts again while the USA has a “Dumb-Ass” president who allows millions of illegals to pour across the borders unchecked, unverified, untested, unable to maintain tracking info and yet this is all OK plus everyone else will soon be told it is necessary to start the proven disaster of masking, social distancing and some more “new vaccines”, “new modified vaccines”, interstate and inter-continental travel bans.
What BS and when will people finally rebel against the nonsense and idiocy.
The Medical community around the world does not spend anytime allowing discussions that involve any other thoughts, potential solutions that varies from the narratives pronounced by ill-informed - all-knowing, all paid politicians and big Pharma blowhards.
When will they shut-up and slink away?