By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, international travel was commonplace for business or pleasure. By March 2020, however, serious travel restrictions and airline shutdowns were enacted globally to halt or try to reduce the spread of the disease.
Near the end of February 2020, I returned to the United States from a research trip with INTERPOL in South America. Upon my return, there was some talk about the coronavirus and signs were posted around the airport advising travelers to notify officials if they had a fever. Aside from that, not much of an alarm had yet been sounded.
A few weeks later in March, I was scheduled to fly to Europe. Within 24 hours of my flight, airlines and some European nations were starting to cancel many international flights because of the uncertainties of the quickly spreading virus and our limited knowledge of it. Fortunately, I canceled my trip just before the flight. Had my family and I gone on the trip, we would have been placed in quarantine upon landing and would not have been permitted to follow the itinerary we had planned out.
Following Months of Onerous Travel Restrictions, Some Countries Slowly Lifted Them
Months of onerous travel restrictions worldwide led to skyrocketing unemployment in the airline industry and others before some countries cautiously began to re-open their borders. Americans can technically travel to dozens of countries now. But the vast majority of them require a 14-day quarantine, a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival or within 72 hours, special insurance, or other legalities that complicate international travel.
Among the countries that require a 14-day quarantine are Israel, Italy, Bulgaria, and New Zealand. Countries that require a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival include the Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Saint Lucia. Countries that require special insurance include Costa Rica, the Bahamas, and Paraguay.
For those who are planning to travel outside the U.S., there can be harsh penalties for violating a country’s pandemic rules. For example, CNN reported that Skylar March, an American student, was jailed for two months while visiting the Cayman Islands because she had violated the Caribbean nation’s quarantine rules. She had removed a tracking device that ensured she was remaining in quarantine and then left her hotel to watch her boyfriend in a jet ski competition.
International Travel Rules Continue to Change
The rules for international travel continue to change as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread and evolve into new, far-faster spreading strains. This further complicates travel because quarantine and testing rules might change between the time a flight departs from one country and when it lands in another country.
One important tool when evaluating the risk of flying abroad is to review the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s international travel advisories, which provide guidance on testing before and after travel.
Regarding specific destinations, the CDC has a five-tier worldwide travel advisory system based on risk assessments for the coronavirus. Most countries are in Level 4, COVID-19 Very High-Risk.
An order will soon go into effect that will require anyone flying to the U.S. to show proof of a negative test for COVID-19, the Associated Press reported in mid-January. “Airlines are ordered to stop passengers from boarding if they don’t have proof of a negative test.” The CDC order applies to U.S. citizens as well as foreign travelers. The CDC said it had “delayed the effective date until Jan. 26 to give airlines and travelers time to comply,” the AP explained.
International travel is challenging in its own right with all sorts of rules, regulations and local customs to be aware of. So it’s important to do as much research as possible on the restrictions and protocols for entering a foreign country. It is also critical to obtain international travel insurance that provides healthcare coverage before you go abroad.