Global health law experts say dozens of countries — including the United States and Australia — are breaking international law by imposing travel restrictions during the novel coronavirus outbreak.
In a commentary published in The Lancet medical journal, 16 health law scholars argue that the restrictions on travellers who’ve been in China, the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak, are driven by “fear, misinformation, racism and xenophobia,” rather than science.
And they say those are a violation of the International Health Regulations, legally binding rules meant to ensure that countries don’t take needless measures to control the spread of an infectious disease that end up harming people or discouraging countries from reporting new public health risks.
The World Health Organization has advised against travel restrictions during the COVID-19 outbreak on the grounds that they do more harm than good.
Yet Steven Hoffman, senior author of The Lancet commentary and a professor at York University’s faculty of health, says 72 countries have imposed restrictions anyway.
And two-thirds of those countries have not reported their actions to the WHO, which in itself is another violation of international law.