Travel Restrictions Violate International Law
Science, 367(6485): 1436 (2020)
1 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2020
Date Written: March 27, 2020
From China's lockdown of the city of Wuhan to U.S. restrictions on travelers from Europe to border closures across a widening range of countries, governments are increasingly seeking to limit freedom of movement in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). These travel restrictions have slowed, but not halted, the spread of the pandemic. However, the necessity and benefits of this public health response are outweighed by its violation of international law. Under the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR), binding on all World Health Organization (WHO) member states, health measures “shall not be more restrictive of international traffic and not more invasive or intrusive to persons than reasonably available alternatives.” Given the effectiveness of community-based public health measures such as social distancing and contact tracing, the necessity of travel bans must be weighed against less restrictive alternatives, increased global divisions, and violated IHR obligations.
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