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Who’s in? Who’s out? The ethics of COVID-19 travel rules

Should countries require COVID-19 vaccination for entry while vaccines remain globally scarce?

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People wait at O. R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa on Nov. 26, 2021, as many nations moved to stop air travel from the country. AP Photo/Jerome Delay

Omicron, the latest COVID-19 variant dubbed a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization, has prompted new travel restrictions in many nations. Although little is known about omicron, scientists have expressed concern that it may be more transmissible or vaccine-resistant than previous variants.

On Nov. 26, 2021, the United States joined a growing list of nations banning travelers from countries in southern Africa, where the variant was first identified. The U.S. decision followed another recent change, which went into effect on Nov. 8, 2021, requiring non-citizens entering the U.S. by plane to be fully vaccinated, with limited exceptions. Everyone entering by plane, including citizens, must provide a negative COVID-19 test.

As bioethicists based in the U.S. and Ghana, we explore the intersection of global health and ethics in our research. In the U.S. government’s recent rules for entry, we see far-reaching consequences that should prompt policymakers to consider not just science, but ethics.

Buying time?

There are multiple arguments to support travel rules imposing bans or requiring full vaccination. U.S. policy aims to “prevent further introduction, transmission, and spread of COVID-19 into and throughout the United States,” President Joe Biden said as he introduced the vaccination requirement. He noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “has determined that the best way to slow the spread of COVID-19, including preventing infection by the delta variant, is for individuals to get vaccinated.”

Ethically, the reason to contain the spread is to protect health and save lives. It could be argued that a country’s first duty is to keep its own people safe. However, many countries manage to protect their people while building in flexibility, such as by testing and quarantining visitors in lieu of travel bans or strict vaccination requirements. France, for example, tailors requirements to infection rates. It considers the U.S. an “orange” country, meaning unvaccinated Americans must show negative COVID-19 tests and self-isolate for seven days.

One argument in favor of travel bans holds that they could slow the spread of the virus and buy time while scientists learn more. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease advisor, reportedly told the president it would take two weeks to have definitive answers about omicron. A travel ban gives scientists more time to assess how well existing vaccines fare against new variants, and to begin reformulating vaccines if needed.

An ethical argument for vaccine requirements is that people should be held accountable for their choices, including refusing vaccination. Yet throughout much of the world, particularly poorer regions, people cannot access vaccines. On average, only 6% of people in low-income countries have received a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 74% in rich countries.

Science in flux

Critics of travel bans and vaccine requirements point out that such controls are hardly foolproof. There is scant evidence that travel restrictions reduce disease spread, particularly if they are not timed right and paired with other prevention strategies. Meanwhile, many studies have highlighted the negative consequences of international travel restrictions, such as xenophobia and mental health concerns.

Vaccines are currently highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death from COVID-19. But vaccinated people can still be infected and transmit the virus, although they are less likely than unvaccinated people to be contagious, and less likely to get COVID-19 in the first place. Vaccines could also become less effective if undercut by new virus variants, though it is not yet clear if omicron reduces vaccine efficacy. Finally, there is uncertainty about how long vaccine protection lasts.

Banning travelers in response to omicron is intended to keep people safe. But bans could backfire if they are seen as punitive, and could make countries less likely to share information about new variants. After South Africa reported the omicron variant, its health minister said travel bans had made the country a scapegoat for a “worldwide problem,” while the foreign ministry claimed, “Excellent science should be applauded and not punished.” Targeting African countries with travel bans “attacks global solidarity,” the World Health Organization’s Africa director said in a statement.

A man and woman embrace as she talks on a cellphone in an airport.
Jolly Dave, right, makes a phone call after arriving from India and being reunited with her boyfriend, Nirmit Shelat, at Newark Liberty International Airport, Nov. 8, 2021. The couple has not been able to see one another for nine months due to pandemic travel restrictions. AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Health and justice

Travel bans and vaccine rules also raise equity concerns, given the dramatic disparity in vaccination rates across the globe. Travel restrictions disproportionately impact people from low-income nations where few vaccines are available.

It might appear that requiring vaccination for entry would not leave many people worse off, if people in poorer countries can rarely afford travel. Yet many people traveling to wealthier countries do so for jobs. Pre-pandemic, in 2019, the U.S. issued more than 900,000 work-eligible visas.

Many opponents of travel restrictions emphasize that new variants are not surprising, given how unequally vaccines have been distributed around the globe. When nations in southern Africa protested the new travel ban, they pointed to previous warnings that the delay in rolling out vaccinations there would increase the risk of new variants.

Equity concerns are intensified by wealthy nations’ partial responsibility for poorer nations’ difficulty accessing vaccines. Early in the pandemic, rich countries struck advance market agreements and secured as much as 500% of their predicted vaccine need, exacerbating global vaccine scarcity and bidding up prices.

Wealthy nations pledged 1.8 billion doses of vaccine to low-income nations through COVAX, a global initiative to equitably distribute vaccines. Yet only 14% of them have been delivered, according to The People’s Vaccine, an alliance calling for equal access to COVID-19 vaccines.

[Research into coronavirus and other news from science Subscribe to The Conversation’s new science newsletter.]

Some ethicists have argued that governments should hold off on vaccination requirements for international travelers until there is more universal access to vaccines, or allow alternatives, such as testing or vaccination upon arrival. The U.S. vaccine requirement for visitors does make humanitarian exceptions for travelers from countries where fewer than 10% of people are fully vaccinated. Still, it bars entry to people on a tourist or business visa, and citizens of many low- and middle-income nations where vaccination rates are low, but just above the bar.

Do as I say, not as I do?

The U.S. vaccination requirement also sounds hypocritical, because it does not apply to Americans. Unvaccinated citizens are allowed to reenter the country with a negative test result. Though free COVID-19 vaccines are widely available, just 58% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated.

In addition, U.S. rules exclude unvaccinated foreigners from countries with far lower COVID-19 rates. The U.S. has about 210 confirmed cases per million people, but excludes unvaccinated people from countries including India (6 per million), Paraguay (8 per million), Cambodia (2 per million) and Zimbabwe (3 per million), although lack of testing may contribute to low case counts.

In our research, we argue global health can be protected by more equitable methods, like following the WHO’s recommendation to delay booster shots until 10% of people in every nation have received first shots; expanding vaccine manufacturing through waiving vaccine patents; and showing solidarity in the global distribution of vaccines by prioritizing countries with low ability to obtain vaccines.

Ultimately, the best way for wealthy nations to protect their own citizens is to vaccinate people across the globe. “If the variant shows up anywhere in the world, you can pretty much count on it being everywhere in the world,” as infectious disease specialist Michael Osterholm told the New York Times. Vaccinating more people reduces the chance of new variants appearing that are impervious to vaccines.

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Easyjet share price down 3% as pandemic losses hit £2.2 billion

The EasyJet share price shed over 3% today to give up a chunk of…
The post Easyjet share price down 3% as pandemic losses hit £2.2 billion first appeared on Trading and Investment News.

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The EasyJet share price shed over 3% today to give up a chunk of the gains the budget airline had made earlier in the week. The new slide came after it announced a £213 loss for the last quarter of the year covering the Christmas period, taking losses for the Covid-19 pandemic period to £2.2 billion. The airline also told investors it is still burning through £150 million in cash every month as it struggles to build capacity back up.

The short-haul airline that makes most of its income shuttling holidaymakers and business travellers around Europe said it is still only operating at around half of its pre-pandemic capacity. However, it is hopeful that pent-up demand and an end to travel restrictions mean it will return to pre-pandemic levels by summer and enjoy much brisker trade than of late over the Easter and spring period.

easy jet plc

But before then the airline company will again have to absorb deep losses over the current quarter, which is traditionally its weakest of the year. Even a strong summer period, think most analysts, will be insufficient to see the company return to profit this year. EasyJet’s value is still less than half of what it was in February 2020 before the coronavirus-induced market sell-off that hit later that month and saw markets dive into March before starting to recover. The share prices of rival budget airlines Ryanair and WizzAir have recovered much more strongly in comparison to EasyJet’s and are now close to their pre-pandemic levels. There have been concerns around whether EasyJet could survive the pandemic but investors contributed £1.2 billion last autumn to bolster its balance sheet.

The EasyJet share price is closing the week at around £6.15 compared to over £15 before the pandemic. However, there is now hope the worst may be behind the airline and it can begin its, potentially long, journey back to health. Chief executive John Lundgren attempted to soften the announcement of another hefty loss with a bullish statement on where things go from here for his company:

“Booking volumes jumped in the UK following the welcome reduction of travel restrictions announced on January 5, which have been sustained and given a further boost from the UK government’s decision this week to remove all testing requirements.”

“We believe testing for travel across our network should soon become a thing of the past. We see a strong summer ahead, with pent-up demand that will see easyJet returning to near-2019 levels of capacity, with UK beach and leisure routes performing particularly well.”

For now, however, forward guidance for the immediate quarter remains cautious with the company admitting it has fallen short of its expectations to be at 80% capacity by this quarter, sitting at just 67%. However, with most analysts confident the company will eventually return to strength, and profit in the 2022-23 financial year, EasyJet shares could offer a good buying opportunity at current levels.

The post Easyjet share price down 3% as pandemic losses hit £2.2 billion first appeared on Trading and Investment News.

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Xi Jinping Seeking “Global Domination”: Mike Pompeo

Xi Jinping Seeking "Global Domination": Mike Pompeo

Authored by Nathan Worcester via The Epoch Times,

Mike Pompeo said Chinese leader Xi Jinping wants “global domination—hegemony for the Chinese Communist Party,” warning that the…

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Xi Jinping Seeking "Global Domination": Mike Pompeo

Authored by Nathan Worcester via The Epoch Times,

Mike Pompeo said Chinese leader Xi Jinping wants “global domination—hegemony for the Chinese Communist Party,” warning that the rise of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) could destroy the rules-based international order in place since the end of World War II.

“It’s not about putting a Chinese tank division in Taiwan. It’s about accreting political power and influence throughout the world,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo, who served first as CIA director and later as Secretary of State under President Donald Trump, made the statement in an appearance at the Argus Americas Crude Summit 2022.

He said his tenure as CIA director came at a time when U.S. attention had to shift from terrorism to other threats, foremost among them the CCP.

He added that a “global awakening” is taking place about what he sees as the ambitions of the CCP.

“Most of the credit goes to Xi Jinping. He foisted a virus on the world, for goodness’ sake, and refuses to let anybody go figure out where it came from,” Pompeo said.

The CCP has met with international criticism for blocking access to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and related facilities in Wuhan by the United Nations. Many scientists and journalists suspect the CCP virus that causes COVID-19 originated at the WIV.

Pompeo also commented on ongoing trade-related conflict between the United States and China, raising questions about the United States’ initial decision to open up to China in the context of its primary Cold War conflict with China’s then-rival, the Soviet Union.

“The trade war began maybe in 1972,” he said, referring to Henry Kissinger and President Richard Nixon’s visit to the People’s Republic of China in the context of restoring diplomatic ties.

“Maybe it was the right thing to do in 1972—but the trade war long predates the Trump administration.”

“We encouraged business together. I don’t fault the businesses who went there. Notice the past tense of this. America’s policy encouraged connectivity with the Chinese Communist Party. Today, that is an enormous liability for the world, and Xi Jinping knows that,” Pompeo said.

Tyler Durden Fri, 01/28/2022 - 23:00

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Authoritarian Madness: The Slippery Slope From Lockdowns To Concentration Camps

Authoritarian Madness: The Slippery Slope From Lockdowns To Concentration Camps

Authored by John W. Whitehead & Nisha Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

“All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwal

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Authoritarian Madness: The Slippery Slope From Lockdowns To Concentration Camps

Authored by John W. Whitehead & Nisha Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

“All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwald, the Auschwitzes—all of them. They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the Earth into a graveyard. Into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all, their conscience. And the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance, then we become the gravediggers.”

- Rod Serling, Deaths-Head Revisited

In the politically charged, polarizing tug-of-war that is the debate over COVID-19, we find ourselves buffeted by fear over a viral pandemic that continues to wreak havoc with lives and the economy, threats of vaccine mandates and financial penalties for noncompliance, and discord over how to legislate the public good without sacrificing individual liberty.

The discord is getting more discordant by the day.

Just recently, for instance, the Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board suggested that government officials should mandate mass vaccinations and deploy the National Guard “to ensure that people without proof of vaccination would not be allowed, well, anywhere.”

In other words, lock up the unvaccinated and use the military to determine who gets to be “free.”

These tactics have been used before.

This is why significant numbers of people are worried: because this is the slippery slope that starts with well-meaning intentions for the greater good and ends with tyrannical abuses no one should tolerate.

For a glimpse at what the future might look like if such a policy were to be enforced, look beyond America’s borders.

In Italy, the unvaccinated are banned from restaurants, bars and public transportation, and could face suspensions from work and monthly fines. Similarly, France will ban the unvaccinated from most public venues.

In Austria, anyone who has not complied with the vaccine mandate could face fines up to $4100. Police will be authorized to carry out routine checks and demand proof of vaccination, with penalties of as much as $685 for failure to do so.

In China, which has adopted a zero tolerance, “zero COVID” strategy, whole cities—some with populations in the tens of millions—are being forced into home lockdowns for weeks on end, resulting in mass shortages of food and household supplies. Reports have surfaced of residents “trading cigarettes for cabbage, dishwashing liquid for apples and sanitary pads for a small pile of vegetables. One resident traded a Nintendo Switch console for a packet of instant noodles and two steamed buns.”

For those unfortunate enough to contract COVID-19, China has constructed “quarantine camps” throughout the country: massive complexes boasting thousands of small, metal boxes containing little more than a bed and a toilet. Detainees—including children, pregnant women and the elderly— were reportedly ordered to leave their homes in the middle of the night, transported to the quarantine camps in buses and held in isolation.

If this last scenario sounds chillingly familiar, it should.

Eighty years ago, another authoritarian regime established more than 44,000 quarantine camps for those perceived as “enemies of the state”: racially inferior, politically unacceptable or simply noncompliant.

While the majority of those imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camps, forced labor camps, incarceration sites and ghettos were Jews, there were also Polish nationals, gypsies, Russians, political dissidents, resistance fighters, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals.

Culturally, we have become so fixated on the mass murders of Jewish prisoners by the Nazis that we overlook the fact that the purpose of these concentration camps were initially intended to “incarcerate and intimidate the leaders of political, social, and cultural movements that the Nazis perceived to be a threat to the survival of the regime.”

As the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum explains:

“Most prisoners in the early concentration camps were political prisoners—German Communists, Socialists, Social Democrats—as well as Roma (Gypsies), Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, and persons accused of ‘asocial’ or socially deviant behavior. Many of these sites were called concentration camps. The term concentration camp refers to a camp in which people are detained or confined, usually under harsh conditions and without regard to legal norms of arrest and imprisonment that are acceptable in a constitutional democracy.”

How do you get from there to here, from Auschwitz concentration camps to COVID quarantine centers?

Connect the dots.

You don’t have to be unvaccinated or a conspiracy theorist or even anti-government to be worried about what lies ahead. You just have to recognize the truth in the warning: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

This is not about COVID-19. Nor is it about politics, populist movements, or any particular country.

This is about what happens when good, generally decent people—distracted by manufactured crises, polarizing politics, and fighting that divides the populace into warring “us vs. them” camps—fail to take note of the looming danger that threatens to wipe freedom from the map and place us all in chains.

It’s about what happens when any government is empowered to adopt a comply-or-suffer-the-consequences mindset that is enforced through mandates, lockdowns, penalties, detention centers, martial law, and a disregard for the rights of the individual.

The slippery slope begins in just this way, with propaganda campaigns about the public good being more important than individual liberty, and it ends with lockdowns and concentration camps.

The danger signs are everywhere.

Claudio Ronco, a 66-year-old Orthodox Jew and a specialist in 18th-century music, recognizes the signs. Because of his decision to remain unvaccinated, Ronco is trapped inside his house, unable to move about in public without a digital vaccination card. He can no longer board a plane, check into a hotel, eat at a restaurant or get a coffee at a bar. He has been ostracized by friends, shut out of public life, and will soon face monthly fines for insisting on his right to bodily integrity and individual freedom.

For all intents and purposes, Ronco has become an undesirable in the eyes of the government, forced into isolation so he doesn’t risk contaminating the rest of the populace.

This is the slippery slope: a government empowered to restrict movements, limit individual liberty, and isolate “undesirables” to prevent the spread of a disease is a government that has the power to lockdown a country, label whole segments of the population a danger to national security, and force those undesirables—a.k.a. extremists, dissidents, troublemakers, etc.—into isolation so they don’t contaminate the rest of the populace.

The world has been down this road before, too.

Others have ignored the warning signs. We cannot afford to do so.

As historian Milton Mayer recounts in his seminal book on Hitler’s rise to power, They Thought They Were Free:

“Most of us did not want to think about fundamental things and never had. There was no need to. Nazism gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about—we were decent people‑—and kept us so busy with continuous changes and 'crises' and so fascinated, yes, fascinated, by the machinations of the 'national enemies', without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us.”

The German people chose to ignore the truth and believe the lie.

They were not oblivious to the horrors taking place around them. As historian Robert Gellately points out, “[A]nyone in Nazi Germany who wanted to find out about the Gestapo, the concentration camps, and the campaigns of discrimination and persecutions need only read the newspapers.”

The warning signs were there, blinking incessantly like large neon signs.

“Still,” Gellately writes, “the vast majority voted in favor of Nazism, and in spite of what they could read in the press and hear by word of mouth about the secret police, the concentration camps, official anti-Semitism, and so on. . . . [T]here is no getting away from the fact that at that moment, ‘the vast majority of the German people backed him.’”

Half a century later, the wife of a prominent German historian, neither of whom were members of the Nazi party, opined: “[O]n the whole, everyone felt well. . . . And there were certainly eighty percent who lived productively and positively throughout the time. . . . We also had good years. We had wonderful years.”

In other words, as long as their creature comforts remained undiminished, as long as their bank accounts remained flush, as long as they weren’t being locked up, locked down, discriminated against, persecuted, starved, beaten, shot, stripped, jailed or killed, life was good.

Life is good in America, too, as long as you’re able to keep cocooning yourself in political fantasies that depict a world in which your party is always right and everyone else is wrong, while distracting yourself with bread-and-circus entertainment that bears no resemblance to reality.

Indeed, life in America may be good for the privileged few who aren’t being locked up, locked down, discriminated against, persecuted, starved, beaten, shot, stripped, jailed or killed, but it’s getting worse by the day for the rest of us.

Which brings me back to the present crisis: COVID-19 is not the Holocaust, and those who advocate vaccine mandates, lockdowns and quarantine camps are not Hitler, but this still has the makings of a slippery slope.

The means do not justify the ends: we must find other ways of fighting a pandemic without resorting to mandates and lockdowns and concentration camps. To do otherwise is to lay the groundwork for another authoritarian monster to rise up and wreak havoc.

If we do not want to repeat the past, then we must learn from past mistakes.

January 27 marks Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, a day for remembering those who died at the hands of Hitler’s henchmen and those who survived the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps.

Yet remembering is not enough. We can do better. We must do better.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, the world is teetering on the edge of authoritarian madness.

All it will take is one solid push for tyranny to prevail.

Tyler Durden Fri, 01/28/2022 - 23:40

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