Michelle Fishman calls it “the worst-case scenario you really don’t think about.”
after three weeks off Greece, a 52-year-old hotel art consultant from Miami, and her husband underwent a pre-departure coronavirus test on their way home from abroad. He tested positive, he didn’t.
Although coronavirus travel control Relaxed in many parts of the world, the United States still requires all international air travelers to submit a negative test within a day of departure. And according to guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the fisherman should have isolated and delayed the trip for 10 days, but said he had to go home first to attend the wedding.
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Instead, he took advantage of a quirk in the rules to go home through a “backdoor” after five days (the mandatory self-isolation period required by the Greek government) – crossing into the United States by land, which requires one is not needed coronavirus test, instead of by air. Because Canada does not require a test for entry, the couple first flew to Toronto and after spending a night there, Fishman and her husband crossed the border into Buffalo, New York, and caught a flight home. (There is no test requirement to fly domestically.)
“I had zero symptoms, no fever, nothing. I felt better, and when you’re out of state, the CDC says you can end isolation five days after testing positive, so the same rules apply.” should be when I of travel” Fishman said. “It doesn’t mean I can go to a wedding in Miami five days after testing positive, but I can’t go home if I catch the virus while on vacation. It must be illegal “
It is not clear how many infected people are using the backdoor to get home, which could include flying Mexico And using land crossings there, because airlines are not required to give reasons for passengers to cancel or change flights.
But strong anecdotal evidence indicates that some travelers – and travel advisors – are sharing tips to avoid getting stuck.
On the flight to Toronto, Fishman said she was following the guidance of a family friend who used a similar backdoor to get home. Boston When he tested positive in France in April.
Asked if she was concerned about infecting other travelers on her long journey home from Greece (she tested positive again on her fifth day), Fishman pointed to CDC’s guidance from people who catch the virus in the United States, which says asymptomatic people or those whose symptoms have recovered within a five-day isolation period can leave their homes. The recommendation is based on science that most coronavirus Transmission occurs early in the course of the disease, the CDC said.
“I slept in the same bed with my husband for five nights and he didn’t catch it, so I don’t think I was contagious when I took the flight home,” Fishman said. “I wore a mask the whole time.”
The CDC didn’t explain why it has different policies for Americans who test positive at home and abroad, but a spokesperson for the agency reiterated that travelers to the United States are not allowed to travel before boarding a 10- day guidance should be followed. Even if they test negative. The Department of Homeland Security declined to comment on the possibility of travelers using land borders to circumvent the test requirement for air travel.
The United States began requiring testing in January 2021, when less than 10% of Americans had been vaccinated and cases of new infections and hospitalizations were reaching record levels. Now, with higher vaccination rates and less severe cases of the virus, many US travelers, as well as industry representatives, are calling for the requirement to be lifted, arguing that it does little to prevent new Variants of the virus from spreading in the United States.
“The existence of these workarounds highlights the absurdity of the current inbound testing policy that is nothing short of ineffective,” said Erica Richter, vice president of communications at the American Society of Travel Advisors, a trade organization. “We’re not following the science.”
David Friedman, president-elect of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, is concerned about travelers using this method, warning that the infectious people taking a flight or public transportation to cross the border will put many such people On those who are not up to date vaccination At risk, including airport eateries and other places along the way.
“From a public health point of view, an infectious person may be in one of the newer forms of BA. 4 or B.A. 5, which is more contagious and not yet so common in the US,” he said. “The decline could lead to new, advanced vaccines, and introducing these variants too early could make it worse.”
After testing positive in Stockholm in early April, a US traveler and his wife decided to return to Seattle via Vancouver, as the US-Canada border crossing was relatively close to their home. If he needs to be tested upon arrival at Vancouver airport, he said, he plans to drive home and isolate there. The woman asked to speak anonymously, as she was afraid of negative repercussions.
“We had symptoms for about two weeks before testing positive. We felt great until we actually tested positive, with barely any symptoms, so we felt confident to travel,” she said. “Vancouver airport is very chill and low key. If you look healthy, determined and relaxed, no one is going to make you stand out from the crowd.”
Upon arrival, Canadian officials often ask passengers health questions, and some airports, such as Toronto and Vancouver, may randomly choose to pick up some passengers. coronavirus Testing before being cleared to leave the airport.
Canadian officials have warned infected people against attempting transit through Canada, saying they are not allowed to fly into the country if they have COVID-19 symptoms or become infected within 10 days of their departure . Before arriving in Canada, travelers are required to fill out a health and travel form on the ArriveCAN app. The form contains several questions including vaccination status and whether a passenger has symptoms of coronavirus.
“All travelers arriving in Canada are obliged by Canadian law to truthfully answer all questions,” said Rebecca Purdy, a senior spokeswoman for the Canada Border Services Agency.
“Travellers who knowingly travel to Canada with an active COVID-19 infection and who do not disclose this information may face penalties and/or criminal charges, and foreign nationals may also be denied entry.” and/or be banned from returning to Canada,” Purdy said.
Mexican officials did not return a request for comment. US travelers can enter Mexico without testing or quarantineHowever they may be subject to health check-up on arrival.
Despite the cost of last-minute bookings, backdoor routes are also being used by people to ensure that they travel home on time.
Hilary Aranda, 39, a user experience designer, had just finished a two-week dance tour in Italy after 12 Americans in her group tested positive. To avoid positive results and potential headaches, she never took the test, instead canceling her flight home to Los Angeles for a flight to Tijuana, Mexico, with layovers in London and Mexico City. Then she crossed the land border in San Diego and went home. The change in her itinerary set her back more than $2,000.
“Everyone around me was covid And I knew by my luck that if I did test, it would come out positive and I didn’t want to risk it,” said Aranda, who wore a mask on his flights. “Looking back, it was a crazy decision and a big schtick, but I had to go back to my life and the kids.”
Some travelers who are more risk-averse, but still determined to avoid isolation in another country, are using telemedicine services like QuickMD to obtain “documents of recovery” that can be done without people showing negative tests. Allows to travel to the United States. This option is available for travelers who continue to test positive 10 days after their initial positive test or the onset of symptoms, as it can take weeks or months for some people to test negative.
During a video or phone consultation with a medical professional authorized to grant travel clearance, some travelers lie about the start date of their symptoms so that they can return home without completing the 10-day isolation period.
“It was a three-minute consultation, and I told the doctor that my symptoms had already started,” said one passenger, who asked to speak anonymously for fear of getting into trouble with officers. asked for He had tested positive in London the day before his scheduled flight to New York, he said, but returned home three days later.
“I got my approval document within an hour, it was that easy,” he said.
QuickMD did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The fisherman made it back home in time for the wedding and never developed symptoms of COVID-19, although he said he felt exhausted, which he described as stress caused by trying to get back in time. convicted for.
“My chances of catching COVID in Miami are as high as I catching it while traveling, so the need for testing is useless in my opinion,” she said.
Travelers considering a similar route should be warned that they could be caught. Purdy, of Canada’s Border Services, said violating the instructions upon entering Canada could result in up to six months in prison, a fine of 750,000 Canadian dollars (about $586,000), or both.
(This article originally appeared in The New York Times.)
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