By: Liah Noboa, 9th Grade
As most of us may know, COVID-19 has completely changed the concept of traveling, from hand sanitizers in hotel lobbies to a completely masked cabin crew, national lockdowns to contact tracing tools. Travel came to a virtual standstill between controlled immigration and canceled flights, with the World Tourism Organization of the United Nations announcing that every single global destination had instituted travel bans when the pandemic was at its worst.
Nevertheless, when it comes to the United States, big matters are starting to unveil with the newly elected President Joseph. R. Biden. He himself, through one of his first initiatives to revoke decisions taken by his predecessor ex-president Donald Trump, lifted a disputed travel ban on some countries with predominantly Muslim populations. The Muslim ban executive order was first enacted in 2017 and jeopardized people’s visas in far too many nations, including Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The order was instantly tested in court and passed through several revisions, ultimately approved by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote with a more specific variant. Trump further advocated for extending the ban to encompass more countries such as Myanmar, Sudan, and Tanzania later on in 2020.
“Overall, at least 42,650 people — including students, parents, siblings, tourists, children, and businesspeople — have been barred from the United States because of their country of origin, rather than any warning signs in their files,” noted a report by the Brennan Center for Justice in 2019, which tracked State Department data starting in 2017. This decision to reverse the ban was one of the various actions Biden took moments after being sworn in as the U.S.’ 46th president, including enforcing new mask requirements in airports, on public transit, including on federal property, and ordering foreign passengers to be quarantined upon arrival in the U.S. As a result of his executive action, he said that any person who has had their visa application rejected because of the ban could also have their application reconsidered.
This new modification of course is detrimental, up to some extent, when it comes to the ongoing pandemic and the rapid spread of the virus worldwide. And especially with the new COVID variants coming to the light while alarming many. These 3 variants are causing concern around the world since these come together to build a case for a virus that can spread more easily. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explain in a report that these COVID variants which have recently come into existence are now spreading faster than ever globally, more specifically, 70% faster than the Coronavirus’ previous variant.
In the fall of 2020, the United Kingdom (UK) reported a variant named B.1.1.7 with a high percentage of mutations. This one spreads more effectively and rapidly than any COVID variant we have ever seen before. In January 2021, specialists in the UK stated that, relative to other model viruses, this variant could be associated with a more elevated risk of death, although further studies are needed to validate this result. In several countries around the world, it has since been observed. At the end of December 2020, this version was first noticed in the US, opening a door for a potentially even deadlier virus.
Another version named B.1.351 appeared independently of B.1.1.7 in South Africa. B.1.351, initially identified at the beginning of October 2020, shares several mutations with B.1.1.7. At the end of January 2021, cases caused by this variant were as well recently registered in the US. And finally, the third variant located in Brazil has been identified as P.1, which was first detected in Brazilian passengers who were checked at an airport in Japan in early January during regular testing. There is a collection of additional mutations in this type that may hinder its ability to be detected by antibodies. Last but not least, like the other two versions of COVID, the first time it was detected in the US was in January 2021, not too long ago.
The fight against this virus has certainly been hard and tedious, especially when it comes to traveling and limiting people from specific countries, like it was the case for Muslims and the US, however, revoked by Joe Biden last month. To restrict the transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 and maintain public health, strict and improved compliance with public health prevention techniques, such as vaccination, physical distancing, the use of masks, hand hygiene, and exclusion and quarantine, is necessary for efforts to mitigate this pandemic which has taken many turns affected almost every single human inhabiting planet Earth, and could be more damaging considering the introduction of the three new COVID variants which has been quickly spreading.