Many countries that have been locked down for over a month are now seeing some stabilization and are trying to reopen. To improve their chances to reopen successfully, they have all ramped up their testing and tracking capabilities and continue to restrict foreign travel. While the efficacy of International travel bans are debatable, most scientists believe that for countries to successfully manage a domestic test and contact tracing program, it would help to restrict travel from global hotspots to minimize reinfections. Once a country has established a comprehensive domestic tracking program and controlled community spread, then they could allocate more resources to testing and contact tracing all foreign travelers.
The current CDC list of restricted countries was last updated on March 14th, nearly 10 weeks ago, and urgently needs to be updated to include many new hotspots. Just today, Russia and Brazil overtook many of the European countries that had been suffering as number 2 and number 3 on the list of most infected countries. Not only do they have a high number of infections and infections per capita but most importantly they have exponentially growing infections with effective reproduction numbers, R >1, and worrisome doubling times. That means that a high and rapidly growing number of their citizens are getting infected every day. Countries like Italy, Norway, Switzerland, and Germany can probably go off the list since their R values have fallen significantly below 1 and their newly confirmed cases have been declining for several weeks. Removing these countries, however, is not as important as adding the highly infected countries to the CDC list that is used to screen hospital patients, air travelers, and other sensitive venues. An outdated list makes the USA highly vulnerable to reinfection. This is especially important as the USA reopens tourist spots like Disney World that are travel magnets for South Americans from Brazil, Chile, and Peru who are entering into their high season for flu infections. Moreover this travel list should be updated based primarily on public health rather than political or economic concerns. Let’s not repeat the same error we made in February when we were so focused on China that we failed to recognize the hotspots developing in Europe and let infected Europeans into the USA.
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