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Travel in a time of pandemic

May 20, 2020

Quarantine and other travel restrictions due to Covid-19 have made travel difficult. Most of us with travel plans have just put them off. That’s more difficult for those who were some months into a year-long cruise when the pandemic struck. And some will travel from necessity.

Those claiming that quarantines and similar restrictions constitute tyranny are, for the most part, making a rather silly argument. Governments long have exercised such measures to limit spread of disease. Those measures often fail at their purpose, but aren’t commonly steps toward authoritarian rule. My friend in American Samoa has no good words for that island’s government. However bad it is, let’s hope it keeps that island one of the few communities on earth free from Covid-19.

While I am not paranoid about quarantines, I am a bit stunned that the US government has stopped issuing passports. That is not part of quarantine measures, and has nothing to do with slowing disease spread. Assuming they are willing to suffer travel restrictions at destination nations, it remains each American’s right to travel abroad. Courts have recognized that right even in times of war. More, the passport is one of the few national IDs available to every citizen, useful for everything from domestic flights to opening bank accounts. People should get them long before they plan to travel, and keep them active. This should be an ideal time for the passport office to clear any backlog, and for Americans to think ahead and get that essential piece of identification. Instead, this administration has shut the door. Why?

Photo shows a British passport issued four centuries back. US law regarding a citizen’s right to a passport seems a mess (pdf). Let’s hope that is made more liberal and regular in the future.

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