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Trump's Selective European Travel Ban May Not Help Reduce Spread Of Coronavirus

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Steve Pope
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A security checkpoint in the international terminal at O'Hare Airport was nearly devoid of travelers on Thursday in Chicago, Ill., after President Trump's announcement of the European travel ban.

On Wednesday night, President Trump delivered a rare Oval Office address, announcing a European travel ban with an exception for the United Kingdom. The administration later clarified that the ban does not apply to U.S. citizens and their families, permanent U.S. residents, Ireland, or Eastern Europe.  

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Richard Keller says current travel restrictions will be ineffective at slowing the spread of the coronavirus. He's a UWM-Madison professor and historian of medicine and bioethics.

"For one thing, Americans in Europe are just as likely to be bringing the virus into the United States as are non-Americans. So to restrict one category of citizens but to allow another seems to be really missing the point," Keller explains.

Travel bans, like the president's, can inspire fear and force people to rush out of an area in times when travel can lead to further risk of spreading the virus. Keller advocates for travel advisories or warnings about the significant risk of traveling to or from certain areas. The same day Trump's ban was announced, the State Department issued a level three global travel advisory. These allow people to make their own decisions about travel and not have to feel the need to travel covertly. 

"Borders are notoriously leaky. The idea that imposing this kind of a travel restriction will halt the entry of the virus into the country is, I think, pretty misguided," says Keller. "The virus has reached pandemic proportions, according to the World Health Organization. That means it's not going just to be Chinese and European citizens who are going to be spreading the disease. In order to reach pandemic proportions, a disease has to be spread unilaterally."

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