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Head of US Travel Association questions logic of southern Africa travel ban

The head of the US Travel Association is urging President Joe Biden to revisit the country’s southern Africa travel ban, saying he fears it could pose a major blow to America’s $1.5 trillion travel industry.

After the new omicron coronavirus variant was detected in South Africa and neighboring countries nearly two weeks ago, the United States announced on Monday it would bar travelers coming from any of the eight affected southern African nations. 

Roger Dow, the CEO of the US Travel Association, is now urging the president to reconsider the policy.

‘We want them to revisit this quickly,’ he told CNN in a telephone interview on Wednesday, noting: ‘We need to follow the science, and a travel ban is not the most effective way.’   

Dow expressed confidence in the country’s health restrictions that are already in place, including requirements that all visitors to the United States are vaccinated and tested for COVID in advance of their arrival.

And he claimed that the ban could do more harm than good for an industry that has already lost 34 percent of its employees.

‘We’ve got a health crisis, no doubt about it,’ he said, ‘but we’ve got a job crisis, a mental health crisis and a diplomatic crisis.’ 

Roger Dow, president and CEO of the US Travel Association, right, is questioning the logic of the United State's travel ban

Roger Dow, president and CEO of the US Travel Association, right, is questioning the logic of the United State’s travel ban and has asked President Joe Biden, left, to reverse it

Passengers waited to board an Ethiopian Airlines flight in South Africa as countries throughout the world announce a travel ban from the region due to the threat of the omicron variant

Passengers waited to board an Ethiopian Airlines flight in South Africa as countries throughout the world announce a travel ban from the region due to the threat of the omicron variant

The travel bans have caused long lines at airports throughout the world, including at Heathrow Airport in London (pictured)

The travel bans have caused long lines at airports throughout the world, including at Heathrow Airport in London (pictured)

In the interview with CNN on Wednesday, Dow argued that increased tourism could help improve the country’s standing, saying: ‘Getting people here, traveling back and forth, is good public diplomacy.’

He also said he has met with the president multiple times over the weekend to discuss the travel ban, and said he is encouraged that the president is not expecting further restrictions. 

‘Even the WHO came out and said the data and science don’t support this,’ Dow noted, telling CNN: ‘We don’t want to see this go beyond south Africa.’  

The comments come just one day after the World Health Organization cautioned countries against issuing ‘blanket travel bans.’

In a statement, WHO officials said: ‘Blanket travel bands will not prevent the international spread, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.

‘In addition, they can adversely impact global health efforts during a pandemic by disincentivizing countries to report and share epidemiological and sequencing data.

‘All countries should ensure that the measures should be commensurate with the risk, time-limited and applied with respect to travelers’ dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms.’

 

But top United States officials are now reportedly considering imposing further restrictions on international travel.

According to the Washington Post, the Biden administration is pondering whether to force all travelers returning to the United States, including citizens and legal permanent residents, to quarantine for seven days to curb the spread of the omicron variant – and may fine those who refuse. 

Travelers would not be able to forgo the potential quarantine mandate, even with a negative COVID test or full vaccination and booster shot, as Biden deliberates his winter COVID strategy, which he plans to announce Thursday. 

Any imposition of financial penalties for refusing to comply would mark the first time federal fines are linked to quarantine and testing measures for U.S. travelers. 

Biden’s tentative plan would also require everyone entering the country to be tested one day before boarding flights, regardless of their vaccination status or country from which they’re leaving. Another requirement could force all travelers to get tested again within three to five days of arrival.

It’s not clear when the new policies would take effect, but one of the officials said it could be as soon as next week.

 


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