Conservative media have rallied around calls to enforce travel bans from countries in West Africa affected by the Ebola epidemic, despite the fact that medical and military experts have repeatedly noted that travel bans would hamper relief efforts and impede workers' ability to properly address the outbreak.
Conservative Media Advocate Travel Bans To Stop Spread Of Ebola
MSNBC's Joe Scarborough: “I Don't Understand” Why The U.S. Has Not Enforced Travel Bans. On the October 6 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, co-host Joe Scarborough questioned why the United States has yet to enforce travel bans on African countries stricken by the Ebola epidemic, saying, “I don't understand why we can't take a tougher line on people flying into this country.” [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 10/6/14]
Donald Trump: “I Think It's Ridiculous” To Say That Travel Bans Would Do More Harm Than Good. On the October 6 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Donald Trump responded to medical experts' assertion that a travel ban would be harmful, declaring that it's “ridiculous” to say that and adding that while he supports doctors traveling to provide aid, “they do have to suffer consequences.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/6/14]
Fox's Chris Wallace Suggests Imposing A Visa Ban Would Allow Aid While Still Isolating Ebola-Infected Travelers. During an interview on Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAD), Anthony Fauci, whether the government “should we impose a visa ban” from countries with Ebola in West Africa. After Fauci noted the “danger of making things worse” that a travel ban would pose, Wallace replied that he had “heard that argument,” but added “you could send equipment and medicine and health care workers in without taking thousands of passengers out.” [Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace,10/5/14]
Fox's Bill O'Reilly: Obama Administration Should Discontinue “All Flights From West Africa.” During the October 2 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly called for President Obama to discontinue all flights from West Africa to the U.S. and to ban anybody “holding a passport from any West African nation” from entering the country. Noting that although he “felt sorry for the West African nations,” O'Reilly claimed that Ebola would continue to spread if such a ban was not enforced. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 10/2/14]
Rush Limbaugh: “Only Way” To Contain Ebola Is To Enforce Travel Bans. On the October 1 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show, host Rush Limbaugh argued the “only way” to contain Ebola is to enforce travel bans to West African countries. Claiming that “political correctness” may be the reason such a ban was not being enforced, Limbaugh went on to assert that “responsible leaders would close this country off” from those who had been to West Africa “no matter how mean it sounded.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 10/1/14]
Experts Say Travel Bans Would Impede Ebola Relief Efforts
Centers For Disease Control Director: Travel Bans Are “Something We Might Do Out Of Best Intentions To Protect Americans” But Would Actually Increase Risk. On the October 6 edition of CNN's New Day, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Thomas Frieden asserted that although a travel ban from Ebola-stricken West African countries may be “something we might do out of the best intentions to protect Americans,” it would actually increase risk. Frieden added that if these countries were to be isolated, “the ability to stop the outbreak there” would become “very problematic”:
CAMEROTA: As you know, there's a whole bunch of lawmakers who are calling to ban flights. They want flights out of these African nations stopped. Now, we understand why you wouldn't ban flights going in. They need supplies obviously, but why not ban them returning to the U.S.?
FRIEDEN: One of the challenges is if we can't get assistance in, if we can't keep the airlines flying, it'll be harder to stop the outbreaks there. And I'll tell you what could happen very easily if we isolate these countries: harder to get help in, the disease spreads more within these countries, it spreads to other parts of Africa, and within a few months, we're dealing with outbreaks in many parts of Africa. A big problem not just health-wise but economically and a threat of Ebola that continues months or years that we have to deal with.
CAMEROTA: Sure, sure.
FRIEDEN: We have to ensure that we're focusing on stopping the outbreaks there or something we might do out of the best of intentions to protect Americans might actually increase Americans' risk.
CAMEROTA: Just explain again what the difference is between not stopping flights in. Everyone needs medical supplies in Liberia and other disease-torn countries, but stopping the flights with passengers out of those countries?
FRIEDEN: Well, first off, most of the people leaving those countries have a right to leave. They're American citizens, they're people with dual citizenships, they are people who are traveling to other parts of the world, and airlines aren't going to fly one way. They're going to have to have travelers in both directions if they're actuallygoing to keep flying. If you isolate these countries, the governments will get less stable, and the ability to stop the outbreak there, I think, will be very problematic. [CNN, New Day, 10/6/14]
National Institute Of Allergy And Infectious Diseases Director: Travel Bans Are “Completely Impractical” And “Not Helpful” From A Public Health Standpoint. On the October 6 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Fauci responded to co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck's suggestion that a travel ban would work “just as a precaution” to control the spread of Ebola, asserting that “from a public health standpoint,” a travel ban from these countries would be not behelpful. Fauci added that that the best way to address the epidemic would be to suppress it in West Africa, emphasizing that isolation marginalizes countries and can compound the problem, resulting in civil unrest, failing governments, and further spread of the disease:
HASSELBECK: You know, the top question in everyone's mind is given the fact that we are dealing with the cases as I just described of Ebola, and potential infection moving forward, why not, just as a precaution until we get things under control, seal off the border temporarily?
FAUCI: Well, from a public health standpoint, that really doesn't make any sense. It's understandable how people can figure that that might help, but when you completely seal off and don't let planes in or out of the West African countries involved, then you could paradoxically make things much worse in the sense that you can't get supplies in. You can't get help in. You can't get the kinds of things in there that we need to contain the epidemic. And the best way to protect America is to suppress the epidemic in West Africa. And if we completely isolate them, don't let anything in, don't let anything out, we know from experience with public health that marginalizes them. And you could have civil unrest, the governments could fall, and then you wind up could having spread ofthe virus spread to other countries in West Africa, which would only compound the problem. So it'sunderstandable, that thought -- “let's just close them off” -- but that just doesn't work. [Fox News, Fox & Friends,10/6/14]
Independent World Health Organization Advisers: There Should Be No Travel Ban. Al Jazeera reported that independent advisers to the World Health Organization (WHO) found that airlines that have already shut down flights to areas impacted by Ebola have “hampered aid efforts and the ability of experts to reach victims”:
There should be no general ban on travel or trade with countries reeling from the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, independent health advisers to the World Health Organisation (WHO) have assessed.
Some airlines have stopped flights to affected areas and WHO and other agencies have said on Monday that this has hampered aid efforts and the ability of experts to reach victims of the world's worst ever outbreak of the hemorrhagic fever.
In a statement issued by the UN agency, after the Emergency Committee held its second meeting last week, the WHO said Ebola had now killed at least 2,793 people in five countries and remains a “public health emergency of international concern”.
“Flight cancellations and other travel restrictions continue to isolate affected countries, resulting in detrimental economic consequences, and hinder relief and response efforts risking further international spread,” the statement said.
“The Committee strongly reiterated that there should be no general ban on international travel or trade...” [Aljazeera.com, 9/22/14]
White House Adviser: Travel Ban Would “Impede The Response” To Ebola Outbreak. Reuters reported that White House adviser Lisa Monaco said she would not recommend a travel ban: “Right now, we believe those types of steps actually impede the response.” [Reuters 10/3/14]
World Health Organization Task Force: Travel Restrictions Make Fighting Ebola Much Harder. The Washington Post reported that flight restrictions would “only make it more difficult for life-saving aid and medical professionals to reach West Africa” and that “the restrictions already in place have proved” problematic. According to a representative for the WHO's Travel and Transport Task Force, “Any discontinuation of transport will affect humanitarian aid, doctors, nurses and human resources entering the country, the transfer of biological sampling and equipment for hospitals.” [The Washington Post, 10/4/14]
Bloomberg Businessweek's Charles Kenny: Travel Bans Will Have Little Impact On Minimal Risk To Americans From Ebola, While Worsening Situation In West Africa. In a column for Bloomberg Businessweek, Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, argued that the White House's decision to restrict calls for travel bans is the right thing to do: “Restricting travel to and from the affected region will have little impact on the already minimal risk to Americans from the Ebola virus while further worsening the situation in West Africa.” Kenny also pointed out that the “U.S. has top-notch isolation facilities” and that Frieden has confidence that Ebola will be “stopped in its tracks in America.” Kenny added that a travel ban would increase the economic harm caused by the disease. [Bloomberg Businessweek, 10/6/14]
Travel Bans Are Also Redundant And Ignore The Way Ebola Is Transmitted
Wash. Post: Travel Bans Are “Redundant.” The Washington Post pointed out that according to the CDC, “a U.S. Department of Transportation rule permits airlines to deny boarding to air travelers with serious contagious diseases that could spread during flight, including travelers with possible Ebola symptoms. This rule applies to all flights of U.S. airlines, and to direct flights (no change of planes) to or from the United States by foreign airlines.” [The Washington Post, 10/4/14]
Wash. Post: “Air Travel Restrictions Ignore The Way Ebola Is Transmitted.” The Washington Post reported that “you are more likely to catch a cold on a flight than Ebola” because the disease “can only be contracted through direct contact with a sick person's bodily fluids” and is not transmitted through the air. A United Nations spokesperson added that travel bans are “not an optimal measure for controlling the import of Ebola” and that the “measure does not reflect what is known” about the way the virus is transmitted. [The Washington Post, 10/4/14]