Traveling in the time of COVID-19

Americans contemplating international travel may find themselves trapped either here or, assuming they make it out, in a foreign country and unable to return. The Biden Administration’s new and difficult to comply with COVID-19 testing requirements make international travel difficult and threatening to make it far worse. After discovering the omicron variant, bureaucrats decided to require a negative COVID-19 test of travelers entering the United States administered the day before international travel. As I learned during a recent trip abroad, real-world travelers are finding it increasingly difficult to comply. 

When the change was announced, we were a day’s hard travel from anywhere in Argentina that could process the test in so short a time. The only place to get the required test in time for a flight back to the U.S. was at the Buenos Aires Airport, but our connecting flight to Buenos Aires and on to the United States wouldn’t allow enough time for the new test.

We had planned to obtain our tests before flying back through Buenos Aires under the older test requirements, but only one place in the country could guarantee the shorter turnaround – at any price. We were forced to fly back to Buenos Aires a day ahead of schedule, get tested at 2:30 in the morning and incur additional expenses amounting to more than a thousand dollars each.

It turns out that the U.S. requires other countries to do what we cannot. While foreign governments are trying, the unrealistic bureaucratic edicts issued from Washington make international travel far more complex than it needs to be. Argentina is neither backward nor unique.

U.S. labs are having difficulty processing test results in a timely manner, making it challenging and perhaps impossible for Americans wanting to board an international flight to provide airlines the documentations needed. Last week, news reports began revealing that staff shortages, bad planning and policies encouraging more people to get tested as a means of tracking the spread of the omicron virus are making it impossible for testing labs to process tests quickly. A spokesman for Quest Diagnostics, a major processor in the D.C. area, told reporters last week that increased demand and staffing shortages have made it impossible for the company to deliver results in less than two or three days.

The older requirement that passengers leaving or returning to the United States carry proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 or 48 hours of boarding a plane may have been inconvenient, but the world adjusted. The new rule is something else, and the situation is getting worse with the announcement that several major jurisdictions have decided to deny tests to anyone without initial symptoms of infection.

The 24-hour rule was supposedly instituted in a failed attempt to keep the omicron variant out of the U.S. The panic among politicians, infectious disease “experts,” and government bureaucrats in the days following its detection in South Africa was something to behold. New regulations were promulgated even as those treating the variant in South Africa and elsewhere reported that while easily transmitted, the omicron variant seemed far less lethal than previous viruses. Asymptomatic or mild symptoms, few hospitalizations and a negligible increase in deaths worldwide certainly don’t justify the continuation of requirements that haven’t worked.

Facts, however, have little impact on Dr. Fauci or U.S. political leaders led by President Joe Biden, who hang on to his every prediction. They have doubled down in their efforts to scare the public and reimpose arbitrary restrictions that are being rejected as useless by many governments and the World Health Organization.

Rhetorical and regulatory overkill such as Mr. Biden’s warning that unvaccinated Americans are facing a dark winter and death and Dr. Fauci’s ludicrous suggestion that family members be required to present proof of vaccination to attend Christmas dinners. In the District of Columbia, the mayor has imposed mask mandates and a requirement that shoppers and diners prove they have been vaccinated.

Channeling Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of Connecticut wants nursing homes to accept COVID-19 positive residents. These are folks incapable of learning from experience.

The public has had enough, and even a few health care professionals realize that the panic is unjustified. The new COVID-19 “emergency” isn’t much of an emergency, and people are beginning to ask, as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett did recently of the President’s Solicitor General, “when will this emergency end?”  

• David Keene is editor-at-large at The Washington Times.


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