Why mandatory Covid testing for domestic travel may cost more lives than it saves.
Gary Leff on February 10, 2021.
In recent weeks, the Biden administration has questioned whether a negative Covid test was necessary for a domestic flight.
Covid-19 is already common among the population, although the absolute peak of infections in the United States appears to have passed. Mandating testing will not prevent Covid-19 from gaining a foothold in the community. Nor will it stop Option B.1.1.7 in the United Kingdom, which appears to be on the verge of becoming dominant. Restrictions on domestic travel might be useful if the country could contain the virus rather than just limit it. Restricting air travel alone, however, would not be sufficient to achieve this objective.
Air traffic restrictions, however, can harm public health rather than contribute to it or even be neutral.
If travel becomes more expensive, it doesn’t necessarily mean less travel, often it just means a different mode of transportation. So it doesn’t reduce dispersal. Instead, it shifts people to less safe modes of transportation. Driving a car is not as safe as flying (and neither is Amtrak). If air travel becomes less convenient and more expensive, that means more travel by car, and road travel means more car accidents. Making people make more dangerous choices is often called “state murder.”
On most days, most flights between Houston and Dallas cost $67 one-way. It’s also a one-way trip, but the route Southwest Airlines (and United and United to other airports) has taken since its inception has been its real bread and butter. Requiring an audit can triple the cost of such a trip.
In fact, the growing problem of TSA testing has led to an increase in the number of people driving shorter distances, resulting in an additional 500 car accidents per year. The time, effort and cost of Covid testing is much greater.
The issue of introducing a requirement for Covid testing should not be limited to an examination of the possibility of stopping the spread of the virus and a comparison with other possible public health measures. Possible unintended consequences should also be considered.
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