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Klinger, Carmen; Burns, Jacob; Movsisyan, Ani; Biallas, Renke; Norris, Susan L.; Rabe, Julia E.; Stratil, Jan M.; Voss, Stephan; Wabnitz, Katharina; Rehfuess, Eva A. and Verboom, Ben (2021): Unintended health and societal consequences of international travel measures during the COVID-19 pandemic: A scoping review. In: Journal of Travel Medicine [PDF, 1MB]


RATIONALE FOR REVIEW International travel measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic represent a relatively intrusive form of non-pharmaceutical intervention. To inform decision-making on the (re)implementation, adaptation, relaxation or suspension of such measures, it is essential to not only assess their effectiveness but also their unintended effects. This scoping review maps existing empirical studies on the unintended consequences, both predicted and unforeseen, and beneficial or harmful, of international travel measures. We searched multiple health, non-health and COVID-19-specific databases. The evidence was charted in a map in relation to the study design, intervention and outcome categories identified and discussed narratively. KEY FINDINGS Twenty-three studies met our inclusion criteria-nine quasi-experimental, two observational, two mathematical modelling, six qualitative, and four mixed-methods studies. Studies addressed different population groups across various countries worldwide. Seven studies provided information on unintended consequences of the closure of national borders, six looked at international travel restrictions, and three investigated mandatory quarantine of international travelers. No studies looked at entry and/or exit screening at national borders exclusively, however six studies considered this intervention in combination with other international travel measures. In total, eleven studies assessed various combinations of the aforementioned interventions. The outcomes were mostly referred to by the authors as harmful. Fifteen studies identified a variety of economic consequences, six reported on aspects related to quality of life, well-being, and mental health, and five on social consequences. One study each provided information on equity, equality, and the fair distribution of benefits and burdens, environmental consequences and health system consequences. CONCLUSIONS/RECOMMENDATIONS This scoping review represents the first step towards a systematic assessment of the unintended benefits and harms of international travel measures during COVID-19. The key research gaps identified might be filled with targeted primary research, as well as the additional consideration of gray literature and non-empirical studies.

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