Travel restrictions

Human cost of COVID travel restrictions revealed in new study


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New research shows the high human costs and negative impacts of border closures and travel bans during the COVID pandemic on “transnational” individuals and families whose lives span different countries.

The stories shared in the study, led by Dr Irene Skovgaard-Smith of the University of East Anglia, reveal the emotional toll of prolonged separation over geographic distances when loved ones are no longer “on the fly.” .

Participants from over 25 countries spoke of being ‘trapped’, ‘stuck’ or ‘stranded’ in a state of endless limbo and uncertainty due to international travel, border and entry restrictions introduced. by many countries around the world during the pandemic.

The measures have affected various groups whose lives transcend territorial borders, such as migrants, families, long-distance couples and international students.

The results, published in the journal Global Networks, while the issue of travel restrictions and entry conditions has returned to the center of debate in recent weeks with the emergence of the Omicron variant.

While the UK government has now removed all countries from the Red List, temporary testing measures for international travel remain in place and other countries still apply entry restrictions.

Very little attention has been paid to the negative consequences of these measures on people’s lives and well-being, with Dr. Skovgaard-Smith’s study being one of the first to examine them. She said the aim was to give a voice to experiences of cross-border immobility and address the urgent need for research into social impacts.

“Beyond the early stages of the pandemic, border restrictions and entry bans have evolved in different ways across nation states throughout 2020 and 2021, with some becoming increasingly disconcerting and disproportionate,” said Dr Skovgaard-Smith, anthropologist at UEA’s Norwich Business School.

“The stories in this study are intensified experiences of strangeness, of not belonging, of precariousness and discrimination, of having no voice. Some people have also felt abandoned by their country of origin because the borders closed. left them “locked out” and “blowing in the wind”, fostering an experience close to exile.

“Those most affected have been left in a prolonged state of limbo, separated from their loved ones for 18 months or more, and have faced a range of threats to their transnational lives and well-being, as well as their means of sustenance due to visa and employment issues. . “

The research was conducted virtually from May 2020 to May 2021 and involved collecting stories via in-depth interviews and survey.

Dr Skovgaard-Smith said: “The approaches of New Zealand and Australia, for example, are often praised without considering the human costs of almost two years of border closures. Travel restrictions have generally enjoyed broad political support, and often the focus is primarily on tourism and vacations when travel restrictions are debated.

“However, this research is important as an early study of some of the serious consequences of the pandemic for those who live their lives beyond national borders.”

Commenting on the decision to remove the 11 countries from the UK red list for travel this week, Dr Skovgaard-Smith added: “Many of those affected will feel tremendous relief and hope that they can now be reunited with their families for Christmas. , in some cases after several years of separation It is also a great relief to many others who feared that other countries could be added to the Red List on short notice.

“Nation states keeping their borders closed will not solve the pandemic at this point and entail significant economic, diplomatic and human costs. The World Health Organization therefore advises against travel restrictions. International cooperation and equity in vaccine matters are the only way forward. “

“Transnational life and cross-border immobility in times of pandemic” is published in the journal Global Networks.

COVID-19 bans travel little more than a ‘public health theater’, says professor

More information:
Irene Skovgaard-Smith, Transnational Life and Cross-Border Immobility in a Pandemic, Global Networks (2021). DOI: 10.1111 / glob.12350

Provided by the University of East Anglia

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