The United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa are the countries that are adding more restrictions on entry into other countries due to the pandemic, a survey carried out by Folha based on data from the IATA (International Air Transport Association).
Out of 150 countries analyzed, 25 imposed specific restrictions on the United Kingdom, 17 on Brazil and 17 on South Africa. The sum takes into account locations that have barred entry for passengers who were in those countries prior to travel or who vetoed their flights, and includes only currently valid metrics.
Others, like India, are only asking for testing or additional quarantine for those coming from all three places, but entry is allowed if the passenger proves they are not contaminated.
The other 27 first places on the list are occupied by European countries, with Portugal (13 veto) and Ireland (12) in the lead. Several governments have announced block restrictions on the nations of the continent, which have free movement between them, since most of them are part of the Schengen area.
Measures against specific countries gained momentum at the end of 2020, to curb the spread of new, more contagious variants of the coronavirus. Scientists have identified strains that emerged in the UK, Brazil and South Africa.
Iata data shows that at least 55 national governments maintain virtually complete closures to travelers, with a few exceptions, such as access for their own citizens and residents.
Saudi Arabia, which has generally banned entry, has placed an additional restriction: even residents who have passed through the UK, Brazil or South Africa in the past 14 days cannot enter.
In South America, travelers from Brazil are subject to restrictions in Argentina, Colombia and Peru. Access to the United States has been banned since May 2020. Brazil is also the veto target of Germany, Saudi Arabia, Austria, Spain, Iraq, Madagascar, from Morocco, Moldova, Oman, Pakistan, United Kingdom, Tunisia and Turkey.
In the opposite direction, Brazil has blocked flights from South Africa and the United Kingdom since January, and has prevented the entry of passengers who have visited both places in the past 14 days. There are exceptions for Brazilian citizens and residents, but they must test negative for Covid and quarantine upon arrival.
“Studies of the Ebola and Zika outbreaks show that closing borders is, in general, palliative. These measures only save time for two or three weeks, but do not make it possible to prevent the importation of pathogens ”, underlines Marcelo Gomes, coordinator of Infogripe (national respiratory disease surveillance system, linked to the Ministry of Health) and researcher at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation.
“It’s a porous barrier because some groups, like diplomats, manage to get in, and the flow of goods continues,” he says. The researcher explains that the ideal is to bet on a sum of strategies, including the control of the transmission in the place of origin of the new strain, the performance of tests and the isolation of the travelers for a few days after the arrival.
“The PCR test can give false negatives. When determining a strict quarantine for those who arrive, I practically guarantee that it will not be able to transmit to anyone”, specifies the researcher.
The United States, the country with the most Covid cases in the world – 28.7 million – is subject to the restrictions of only three countries: Saudi Arabia, Madagascar and Moldova. India, the second most contagious country – 11.1 million – also has three vetoes (from Saudi Arabia, Madagascar and Iraq).
“Reciprocity is diplomacy’s most valuable principle. However, as the timing is exceptional, I do not imagine that a policy of total isolation is favorable, as it can lead to difficulties in importing inputs, including including the vaccine itself “, analyzes Fernanda Magnotta, coordinator of the international relations course at Faap.
Border closures also affect sectors such as commerce and tourism, which businessmen may push to reopen. At the same time, barriers can be used politically. “Governments can adopt them to show that they are protecting their societies from external dangers. It is still a kind of nationalism”, emphasizes Magnotta.
“Ideally, Brazil should do good governance of the crisis. The more we fail to do our homework, the worse our international reputation is,” recalls the coordinator.
Brazil, which is facing its worst moment of the pandemic, is fertile ground for the emergence of new variants, which could lead to new external blockages. “The more cases there are, the more mutations there are. And, with that, the chance to have a new variant which gets stronger and manages to escape the immunity or the previous protection of some vaccines, ”warns Gomes of Infogripe. “Having fewer cases in the country makes it much easier to control this.”