A medical staffer works with test systems for the diagnosis of coronavirus, at the Krasnodar Center for Hygiene and Epidemiology microbiology lab in Krasnodar, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020. Russia has closed its land border with China and suspended most train traffic between the countries. (AP Photo)

Travel restrictions during outbreak needless and illegal, global law experts say

World Health Organization has advised against travel restrictions during the COVID-19 outbreak

Global health law experts say dozens of countries — including the United States and Australia — are breaking international law by imposing travel restrictions during the novel coronavirus outbreak.

In a commentary published in The Lancet medical journal, 16 health law scholars argue that the restrictions on travellers who’ve been in China, the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak, are driven by “fear, misinformation, racism and xenophobia,” rather than science.

And they say those are a violation of the International Health Regulations, legally binding rules meant to ensure that countries don’t take needless measures to control the spread of an infectious disease that end up harming people or discouraging countries from reporting new public health risks.

The World Health Organization has advised against travel restrictions during the COVID-19 outbreak on the grounds that they do more harm than good.

Yet Steven Hoffman, senior author of The Lancet commentary and a professor at York University’s faculty of health, says 72 countries have imposed restrictions anyway.

And two-thirds of those countries have not reported their actions to the WHO, which in itself is another violation of international law.

“Responses that are anchored in fear, misinformation, racism and xenophobia will not save us from outbreaks like COVID-19,” the scholars argue.

“Upholding the rule of international law is needed now more than ever.”

ALSO READ: Fear, boredom and adventure on cruise ship quarantined in Japan

In the short term, the scholars argue that travel restrictions prevent needed supplies from getting into regions affected by an outbreak, slow the international public health response, ”stigmatize entire populations and disproportionately harm the most vulnerable among us.”

Over the longer term, the restrictions encourage other countries to similarly ignore international law during future outbreaks.

“Effective global governance is not possible when countries cannot depend on each other to comply with international agreements.”

In an interview from Geneva, where he is working with the WHO on the international response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Hoffman praised Canada for not imposing any travel restrictions on people coming from China.

“It’s probably very hard for the Canadian government to resist calls for things like travel restrictions, which Canadians see other countries doing. Yet it’s so important that we do and that we maintain the current evidence-based approach that the government is taking,” Hoffman said.

“It kind of makes me proud that my country is doing it right.”

By contrast, Hoffman said the U.S. and Australia are prime examples of countries that are breaking international law.

The U.S. has banned entry to foreign nationals who have been in China in the previous 14 days. U.S. nationals and residents who’ve been in China’s Hubei province are subject to mandatory quarantine while those who’ve visited other areas in China must return to the U.S. only through specified ports where they will undergo health screening and face self-isolation.

Australia has banned entry to visitors who have transited through or been in China on or after Feb. 1. Australian nationals and residents who’ve been in China must self-isolate for 14 days.

Joan Bryden , The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RCMP asking for more officers to better enforce speed limit on Trans Canada Highway

City council will bring the motion to the Southern Interior Local Government Association

Interior Health leading the way with innovative therapy for stroke patients

Percentage of ischemic stroke patients who received treatment has risen dramatically

Snow continuing in Revelstoke

Roughly five cm expected

Columbia Basin Trust seeking public feedback for new management plan

There will be a community meeting in Revelstoke in May

VIDEO: Minister says consider coronavirus outbreak when planning for spring break

Foreign Affairs minister points to rash of new cases appearing in places like Italy and Iran

B.C. Liberals call for ban on foreign funds to pipeline protesters

Sierra Club, Wilderness Committee back Coastal GasLink blockades

Donations pour in for family who lost father, son in fatal crash on B.C. highway

Mike Cochlin and sons Liam and Quinn were travelling on Highway 5A

Beer and burgers to raise cash for Vernon man fighting cancer

Fundraiser hosted in honour of Garnet the Great to send him to special treatment centre

HERGOTT: Idiocy of distracted driving

Paul Hergott is a personal injury lawyer based in West Kelowna

Kelowna man arrested after all-night crime spree

Shawn Bell, 33, is facing seven charges for incidents committed within a 24-hour span

Hollywood actor Chris Pratt shows Kamloops love on social media

The filming of Jurassic World 3 is underway in Merritt and area

B.C. man who pulled a gun on off-duty cop gets two years in prison

Encounter also led police to a home where 100 guns and explosives were found

Flip-flopping pleas in Surrey woman’s 2018 murder in West Kelowna

Following an shocking guilty plea on Feb. 25, Tejwant Danjou applied to retract that plea on Feb. 26

Most Read