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As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries and regions have imposed quarantines, entry bans, or other restrictions for citizens of or recent travelers to the most affected areas. Other countries and regions have imposed global restrictions that apply to all foreign countries and territories, or prevent their own citizens from travelling overseas.
Together with a decreased willingness to travel, the restrictions have had a negative economic and social impact on the travel sector in those regions. A possible long-term impact has been a decline of business travel and international conferencing, and the rise of their virtual, online equivalents. Concerns have been raised over the effectiveness of travel restrictions to contain the spread of COVID-19..
The European Union rejected the idea of suspending the Schengen free travel zone and introducing border controls with Italy, a decision which has been criticised by some European politicians. After some EU member states announced complete closure of their national borders to foreign nationals, the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that “Certain controls may be justified, but general travel bans are not seen as being the most effective by the World Health Organization.” A few days later the EU closed its external borders.
A study in Science found that travel restrictions had only modest effects, delaying the initial spread of COVID-19, unless combined with infection prevention and control measures to considerably reduce transmissions. Researchers came to the conclusion that “travel restrictions are most useful in the early and late phase of an epidemic” and “restrictions of travel from Wuhan unfortunately came too late.