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Updated Consideration for International Travel by UNC Students, Trainees and Faculty

January 28, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic began in January 2020, and it has waxed and waned but taken a terrible toll.

COVID-19 raises very special considerations, which are dynamic and, therefore, compromise expectations.

The risk of international travel, in particular to countries with low resources for providing health care, has increased with the emergence of variants of COVID-19 and health care systems under great strain. As deans and others weigh the required certification that the benefits to UNC of the proposed international travel exceed the risks, these significantly increased risks must be front and center in making judgments.

In practical terms, this means that travel to destinations of concern should, in most cases, be delayed or deferred. The benefits to UNC and beyond of travel for such purposes as conducting essential humanitarian activities, COVID-19 vaccine or treatment trials, or other life-saving activities may receive special consideration.

Why should travel be so restricted?

  • COVID-19 and recent variants reported in the UK, Brazil and South Africa are spreading rapidly with unpredictable morbidity and mortality
  • Travelers who become ill with COVID or another illness may not be able to access health care, and certainly not the level of care available in Chapel Hill
  • Dynamic quarantine rules may limit or prevent return to the US for UNC personnel who fall ill, or who simply wish to return
  • The evolution of COVID-19 variants do not allow us to predict the quarantine trajectory. A place that currently allows travel may suddenly “lock down,” leaving personnel stranded
  • UNC personnel who require medical care would de facto need to compete with in-country residents, unfortunately challenging equitable use of resources
  • While vaccines may prove sufficiently effective to allow travel in the future, the benefits and durability of the current vaccines are not known and should not be used to ensure resistance to COVID-19, especially where variants have been detected

In summary, risk-benefit considerations strongly favor an extremely restrictive UNC international travel policy.

This will be re-evaluated routinely as the situation evolves.