Vaccinated people can travel internationally, but should they?

With more people around the world getting vaccinated against COVID-19, especially in richer countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, many of them are setting their sights on taking a long-delayed international holiday.

The European Union has said that it’s working on a plan to welcome fully-vaccinated visitors from countries with low infection rates this summer. Some are wondering, though, whether it’s a great idea to be opening up to travellers so quickly.

“The danger is not merely theoretical. The premature reopening of travel was a significant contributor to the cases seen in the UK at the end of last summer,” said an editorial in The Guardian.

“Wealthy European nations are gambling that they can build a wall around themselves and keep out infections from elsewhere. But the wall is only as strong as its weakest brick. If one country is less effective at tracking new cases and especially variants – or acting on that information – it puts others at risk,” The Guardian noted, adding that the example of India should be a warning of how variants can drive a surge in infections in places that were thought to have escaped the worst.

The BBC reported Wednesday that India’s neighbour, the tourism-dependent Seychelles, is one of the world’s most highly-vaccinated countries and yet is now reporting a surge in infections and at least a third of those cases are among people who are fully-vaccinated.

Because so there are so many cases around the world, it gives SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus causing COVID-19, more time to mutate and spawn potentially more virulent variants. Until more people are vaccinated globally, the potential for vaccine-resistant variants will remain.

The New York Times thinks that the optimism surrounding international travel may be premature, observing that “a surge in global coronavirus cases, lagging vaccine rollouts in tourist hot spots and the lack of a reliable system to verify vaccinations — may be setting the stage for a slow and tortured return to high-volume international travel.”

“For now, it’s hard to know whether the travel industry is in the throes of a temporary transition or staring at the long-term complexities of a clash involving wishful thinking, the hard truths of a relentless pandemic and the possibility of responsible tourism,” wrote the Times.

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