US travel ban strategy doesn’t make sense, ex-FDA chief says

People walk through LaGuardia Airport on April 26, 2021 in New York City. As the number of the people vaccinated against COVID-19 increases throughout the nation, people are beginning to travel by air again. Nearly 1.6 million Americans flew on April 18, 2021 while just over 105,000 Americans flew on the same day in 2020. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/TNS)
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Yueqi Yang Bloomberg News (TNS)

The travel bans imposed by the U.S. on countries including India, China and the U.K. lack a clear sense of purpose and don’t make sense, said former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

“I’m not sure what we are hoping to accomplish. If the goal is to try to prevent the introduction of virus into the U.S., there’s plenty of virus here,” Gottlieb said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

Responding to the U.S. ban on most travel from India, due to go into effect on Tuesday, he said, “If the goal is to try to prevent the introduction of a new variant 617 that’s circling India, I assure you it’s here already.”


“These travel restrictions could serve a purpose but we need to be clear about what that purpose is,” Gottlieb added. “Right now we still have restrictions in place against travel from China and the U.K. that doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Coronavirus variants “aren’t just cropping up in one market and migrating around the world. They’re cropping up simultaneously in every market,” he said.

President Joe Biden announced a new travel ban on visitors from India beginning May 4, as the country struggles to combat the worst surge of coronavirus cases in the world. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the ban, which won’t apply to U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

Biden has also continued the restrictions of travel to the U.S. from the U.K., China and other areas, imposed by the Trump administration, even though the virus situation has changed since last year, and vaccinations are moving ahead.

There has been signs of relaxation. Last week the U.S. eased travel restrictions for students from China and other countries to facilitate their return to U.S. campuses in the fall.

The European Union is set to open its doors this summer to U.S. tourists who’ve been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said last week. However, the U.S. State Department maintains its “Do Not Travel” advisories for about 80% of the world’s nations.


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