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Experts say Biden’s plan to maintain travel restrictions will help with public health, but not economic recovery

Published: Jan. 20, 2021 at 5:04 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - President Joe Biden has indicated plans to maintain international travel restrictions. Former President Donald Trump had ordered the bans to be lifted for a number of countries later this month, because the pandemic is still ongoing.

Health experts agree. However, financial experts say there’s no question this will continue to slow down the nation’s economic recovery.

Travel has suffered a crippling blow. But with the nation’s health still in question-- the people I spoke to are unsure of which is worse: extending restrictions or risking the virus.

Some, like John O’Brien, say restrictions on travel into the U.S. shouldn’t be lifted.

“I think that they shouldn’t be until this is all over with-- the COVID and all that,” O’Brien said.

Others, like Shannon Koski, say precautions are enough.

“If we need to be somewhere, I’d feel comfortable taking the precautions and still going,” Koski said.

With or without travel bans in place, experts say there will be consequences.

“These new strains, especially if they’re more transmissible, will do the same sort of spread throughout the world, even more quickly, even more vigorously-- especially if people are able to travel freely,” said Sanford Health Infectious Disease Consultant Dr. Noe Mateo.

“This decrease in airline travel is damaging by way of jobs because you have less pilots hired, less flight staff, less people in the airports working, baggage handlers,” said Eugene Graner of Heartland Investor Services Inc.

Mateo says the new strains appear to spread more easily, especially when in close quarters on a plane, train or ship.

He says he only sees one clear solution.

“Until more of the population is vaccinated, it’s going to be really problematic. And, I don’t really see how the restrictions can be eased up any, any sooner than later this summer,” Mateo said.

The Biden Administration has reported it plans to strengthen public health measures around international travel.

On the flip side, financial experts say cutting out such a major U.S. economic contributor as travelers from other countries sets off a chain reaction.

“Airline travel is a huge use of fuel, along with moving people around to, quite frankly, hotels, Lyft rides, Uber rides, and restaurants,” Graner said.

The TSA reports air travel is down more than 60% from this time last year.

Biden’s plan to block his predecessor’s order will extend travel restrictions to most people who have recently been in much of Europe and Brazil.

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