The deadly disease has now claimed the lives of more than 3,000 people since it was first diagnosed towards the end of December 2019. The sudden outbreak of the disease and the rapid way in which it has spread around the world has brought into question how well equipped authorities are to deal with outbreaks, and what can be done to prevent them.
Now, one expert has questioned whether there should be a temporary ban on flights while the outbreak is ongoing, and queried whether unvaccinated people should be allowed to fly at all.
Christopher Robertson, a professor of law, and Keith Joiner, professor of medicine, economics and health promotions science, both from the University of Arizona, have stated that air travel is by far the easiest way to spread disease across the globe, and believe something should be done about that.
The duo argue in a piece for the Conversation: “What is now beyond dispute is that airplanes are giving the virus a big boost.
“Air travel is a way to spread many virulent infectious diseases, including diphtheria, hepatitis A, influenza A and B, measles, mumps, meningococcus, rubella, tuberculosis, norovirus – the list goes on.
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“What is now beyond dispute is that airplanes are giving the virus a big boost.”
“There is no doubt that close contact, especially when prolonged, spreads contagion. This is true for respiratory droplets, direct skin contact, and sometimes, fecal or oral spread.
“Making matters much worse: Airlines, taking people from place to place, turn what might otherwise be local outbreaks into worldwide crises.
“It’s hard to conceive a more efficient way to spread infectious disease.”
One solution to this is to make airline carriers check passengers vaccination history to ensure they are protected against any relevant diseases.
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If they do not have the vaccines, then they should not be allowed to travel, the pair state.
They continue: “One suggestion: Airlines could require vaccination for passengers, or at least make them show a medical exemption as to why they cannot be vaccinated. Perhaps now is the time to consider this.
“Right now, scientists are urgently working to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. If they succeed, a vaccine dissemination strategy will be needed immediately.”
While some may question the legality of the enforcement of a ban preventing unvaccinated people from travelling, the pair state it could be the key to prevent worldwide outbreaks and that health officials should intervene.
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They state: “What about the rights of individuals who refuse to vaccinate? Courts have long upheld vaccination mandates for schools, where close and prolonged contact is inevitable.
“Even though there is a “right to travel,” and there are laws protecting religious practices from government encroachment, our courts have explicitly declared vaccination is a government interest; they’ve upheld vaccine mandates for more than a century.
“These basic legal principles, along with the facts, suggest that airlines and airports are key to stopping the spread of disease.
“Public health interventions should obviously focus on them. After all, it’s where the impact is likely to be greatest.”