If there’s one thing that’s been spreading rapidly all over the world other than the Covid-19 coronavirus, it’s fear.
This fear can lead to some pretty drastic measures, like banning residents of an entire country from visiting.
Hong Kong Now Has Travel Ban For South Korea Due to COVID-19 Fears
In response to the growing coronavirus outbreak, Hong Kong is barring all arrivals from South Korea except returning city residents.
As you know, the number of Covid-19 cases in South Korea skyrocketed in the last week. Just yesterday, they confirmed 70 more cases, bringing the total tally to 833, the largest national total outside China. 7 people have died from the disease in the country so far.
“Considering the development of the epidemic in South Korea, the Security Bureau will issue a red travel alert,” said Hong Kong’s security chief, John Lee.
The notice means anyone who has been in South Korea in the last fortnight will be denied entry to Hong Kong.
Yes, the entire South Korea, not just Daegu and Cheongdo.
Hong Kong residents in South Korea will be allowed to return, but they will have to undergo two weeks of medical surveillance first.
Also placed restrictions on China
The South Korea ban is the first time it has placed restrictions on a country beyond China.
Plans to evacuate trapped residents
On Monday (24 Feb), Hong Kong’s government also said it would charter flights to evacuate residents from Wuhan.
According to CNA, hundreds of Hong Kongers are still trapped in the city and have been begging for rescue.
Authorities said that they would prioritise the most vulnerable, such as pregnant women and people needing urgent medical attention.
Just last week, 200 Hong Kong residents were evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the coast of Japan after the major outbreak on board.
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Two of the residents who returned have since tested positive for the virus. Whether those trapped in Wuhan have contracted the virus remains to be seen.
But… Do Travel Bans Actually Work?
Now, you might be thinking this is a logical step; banning people from a state ravaged by a virus from entering your country will help stop the spread of the virus.
But, according to Vox, it isn’t as simple as that. As their report says, there is simply no concrete evidence that travel bans work to stop the spread of a disease.
“Travel restrictions can cause more harm than good by hindering info-sharing, medical supply chains and harming economies,” said the World Health Organization director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“These types of measures have been shown to be ineffective at halting the spread of the viruses,” said Adam Kamradt-Scott, a professor in global health at the University of Sydney who studies global health security.
You see, imposing travel bans in the wake of an epidemic has been tried in the past, but with poor results.
For instance, when the HIV/AIDS virus was discovered in 1984, 66 countries imposed entry, stay, and residence restrictions on people with the disease. However, the disease continued to spread, and travel restrictions were found to be “ineffective, impractical, costly, harmful, and may be discriminatory.”
Not so fun fact: Singapore still bans people with HIV from entering the country. The ban on those entering on short-term visit passes was only lifted in 2015.
A 2006 study also found that restricting travel wasn’t effective for stopping the spread of H5N1 avian flu.
“Our simulations demonstrate that, in a highly mobile population, restricting travel after an outbreak is detected is likely to delay slightly the time course of the outbreak without impacting the eventual number ill.”
So, while it might seem like a practical, precautionary measure, it might just be political theatre.
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