Study: Travel bans good for delaying coronavirus, but not stopping it

Mar 28, 2020, 6:42 AM
coronavirus, travel bans, flights...
A hand sanitizer station sits at a empty check in line at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on March 15, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

A recently-released study found that while travel bans have been useful in slowing the spread of coronavirus, social distancing measures have been far more effective in controlling the epidemic.

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The study comes from an international team of experts, including a biostatistician from the University of Washington. In it, it concludes that “travel restrictions do not really do much but delay the spread of the disease.”

Tracking the initial spread of the virus in Wuhan, China, the study found that the region’s travel quarantine “delayed the overall epidemic progression by only 3 to 5 days in Mainland China.” It also noted that banning travel in and out of China “only modestly” affected the trajectory of the epidemic in cases where additional social distancing measures weren’t also enacted.

“Delaying is good because it slows things down,” said the study’s co-author Elizabeth Halloran. “But this idea of reducing the transmissibility is really key.”

Measures that have proven more effective than travel restrictions include “early detection and isolation of cases,” closing schools, and encouraging better hygiene.

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In terms of the latent benefits of restricting travel, the biggest advantage travel bans can give a locale is “(providing) some time for preparation” before the virus is spreading in earnest among the population.

President Trump has often touted his ban of travel out of China to the U.S. as one of the primary ways his administration acted to address the early spread of coronavirus, as well as a European travel ban he enacted shortly after that.

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Study: Travel bans good for delaying coronavirus, but not stopping it