Why won’t the Europeans let in Americans who test negative for coronavirus?

“EU Sets New List Of Approved Travel Partners. The U.S. Isn’t On It” (NPR):

U.S. travelers won’t be among those allowed to visit the European Union when the bloc begins opening its external borders on July 1. EU ambassadors endorsed a list of 15 travel partners on Tuesday, including South Korea, Japan and, with a caveat, China. Those countries were hit early by the pandemic but have been able to bring the coronavirus under control.

The U.S. was seen as a long shot to make the travel list, which requires that only those countries with epidemiological situations — taking into account both the infection rate and current trends — that are equal to or better than the EU’s can send tourists and other nonessential visitors to the open-border region.

My dumb question for today: If tests work, why can’t airlines test Americans before allowing them to get on the plane to plague-free Europe? If tests don’t work, why do Americans want to pay for millions of tests every day?

Readers: After six months of coronaplague and the genius-level work of Kary Mullis at our disposal, why can’t we credibly promise the Europeans that we won’t send them the Covid-19-ridden?

(from last summer, children playing on a monster trampoline near Copenhagen, no grown-ups within 100 yards)


18 thoughts on “Why won’t the Europeans let in Americans who test negative for coronavirus?

  1. Department of Great Minds Discover the Fallacy of the Excluded Middle. Tomi Lahren on Twitter: “Either masks work or they don’t. If you’re requiring them because they stop the spread then reopen everything. If they don’t work then the mandates are BS. Pick a narrative and stick to it.”

    A response: “Either seatbelts work or they don’t. If you’re requiring them because they stop injuries then let people drive as fast as they want. Pure genius.”

    Department of Great Minds Discover the Genetic Fallacy. Alex Castellanos, a veteran Republican strategist, quoted in the Washington Post: “Mask-wearing has become a totem, a secular religious symbol. Christians wear crosses, Muslims wear a hijab, and members of the Church of Secular Science bow to the Gods of Data by wearing a mask as their symbol, demonstrating that they are the elite; smarter, more rational, and morally superior to everyone else.”

  2. “If the tests work”. What makes you think that the tests are suitable for the process you envision?

  3. Do you not read further than the headline because you don’t like reading, or is it just too hard?

    From your linked article…

    “While not as fast to process as the speediest swab tests, saliva tests could transform the diagnosis of Covid-19.” … “Results are available within 72 hours, although they could be sped up to just a few hours with enough infrastructure in place.”

    You’re in charge at Heathrow and an American arrives, and he says “I had a test 72 hours ago and it was negative.” — do you let him in? Why or why not?

    • FL: We’re not on a budget are we? Haven’t we decided to spend 300+ years of accumulated wealth on trying to hide from coronavirus? This particular article says “just a few hours with enough infrastructure in place”. We have spent $trillions on airports that are now mostly useless. What stops us from spending $millions on some testing machines? (unless the tests don’t work)

    • > Haven’t we decided to spend 300+ years of accumulated wealth on trying to hide from coronavirus?

      That’s an interesting spin to put on things. I would argue that what’s really happening is the US is collapsing as a result of its inept government and idiotic citizens. The wealth will leave all on its own as businesses decide the US is now a terrible place to do business and also as we’re forced to inflate the crap out of the US dollar as coronavirus continues to ravage our economy. Why continue hiring anyone in the US where the government won’t grant visas (to employees who would be barred from visiting their home countries; remember when we used to be the country dishing out travel bans?) and the employees can’t safely work on a coding plantation anyway?

    • Lufthanza test result time lag is 4-5 hours today:


      Abbott’s ID NOW™ COVID-19 claims 13 minutes results availability although some studies found lack of accuracy in either direction.

      I am not aware of any study comparing consequences of using the medieval times tool, i.e. blanket border closure, to prevent influx of potentially infected undesirables with the modern technology of filtering the said undesirables through the Lufthanza or Abbott tests.

  4. Tests seem to work fine – they just seem to take too long for the process you envision. If you have to wait 3-5 days to get a result…

    And there is also that they may want to keep out people from shithole countries.

    For the mask deniers: Next time you go for surgery, please tell the surgeon that you would prefer mask and gloveless OR personnel. Theydon’t magically work in the hospital.

    • The best practice from countries that have mostly or entirely managed to eradicate the virus is to require both testing and quarantining of people entering the country (ideally without a long list of exceptions for people who don’t have to follow the rules). Neither component alone is perfect (some people’s incubation periods have reportedly been longer than two weeks and false negatives have occurred) but combining them gives you more layers of protection. Testing alone might be OK if your strategy is to accept some low level of transmission but try to maintain an R number below 1 so outbreaks don’t spiral out of control. Tourists are thought to be pretty good virus spreaders though because they all visit the same crowded landmarks and interact with a large number of service workers.

    • LinePilot,

      You keep repeating the line about the surgeons and patients but neglect to mention that the surgical mask has always been used as a unidirectional filter preventing the patient from infection, not the other way around. Even in this case, there is scant evidence and some doubt as to their efficacy:

      This recent study finds little protection when wearing a mask as a incoming virus filter. There is some evidence that wearing a mask by a spreader can reduce probability of infecting *other* people, just as in the surgeon case :

      Medical masks did not significantly protect against viral, bacterial, droplet or other infection outcomes. However, the summary odds ratio for masks was less than one, which suggests a low level of protection

      Wearing a surgical mask prevented virus from being exhaled”

      So if you want to be a good citizen you will probably do a good deed by wearing a mask to prevent your germs from infecting other people. If you want to protect yourself, a respirator(N95) is better option.

    • I’d rather my surgeon not wear a mask then wear or even touch the mask he keeps on the rearview mirror of his car.

    • Ivan – I am very aware of why I wear a surgical mask when I go to the grocery store and why I wear a N95 mask when I transport COVID patients.

      Philg – seems like testing companies in the US are indicating that they cannot keep up with testing demand… not good news for your travel scheme.

  5. This morning for the first time I saw evidence of the effectiveness of mask wearing, in a nonrandomized [not goal (sic) standard] study conducted by the WHO (naturally!):

    Face masks may reduce COVID-19 spread by 85%, WHO-backed study suggests


    How do they get the 85% reduction number?

    “With face masks, the chance of infection or transmission was 3% with a mask compared with 17% without a mask, a reduction of more than 80%. And for eye protection, the chance of infection or transmission was 6% with protection and 16% without.”

    So we should wear face shields, goggles and glasses, too. Obviously if masks can reduce the spread by more than 80% we shouldn’t leave another 63% on the table.

    For the record, I wear my mask in public places and businesses, as per the Massachusetts mask mandate.

    If you directly visit one of the co-author’s website, he recommends physical distancing of two meters.

    Hamilton, ON (June 1, 2020) – A comprehensive review of existing evidence supports physical distancing of two metres or more to prevent person-to-person transmission of COVID-19, says an international team led by McMaster University and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.

    “Although the direct evidence is limited, the use of masks in the community provides protection, and possibly N95 or similar respirators worn by health-care workers suggest greater protection than other face masks,” Schünemann said. “Availability and feasibility and other contextual factors will probably influence recommendations that organizations develop about their use. Eye protection may provide additional benefits.”

    So there we have it. The evidence is limited. They estimate 85% decrease for masks and 62.5% for goggles, glasses and face shields. It’s best to stay two meters or more from everybody, wearing a mask and eye protection. The WHO has spoken.

    • This right here is emblematic of the failures of the American response to coronavirus. We know there are a bunch of things that work, we either don’t do them at all or only do them half-assedly, then when everything goes to shit, we claim there wasn’t anything we could’ve done about it.

  6. I got tested this am No symptoms. I was asked to swirl a Q-tip around for 30 seconds inside my nose. This was insertion of 1/2 inch and did not require deep insertion.

    This did NOT require deep insertion, as you may have seen in the past.

    The test results will be available in 7-10 days(!) Wow, that’s slow.

    This is free testing for anyone from my Northern California county, although they will bill insurance, if you have it.

    My suggestion is we test all incoming schoolchildren and teachers, then periodically thereafter, before starting in-person classes. This could be done on campus, for example.

    This rhetorical game of “if tests work/if they don’t work” is a red herring. It’s like refusing to wear seatbelts, unless they can be proven to prevent all injury from car accidents.

    Risk reduction requires a combination of factors, which you know already from being a pilot.

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