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Using Risk Analysis to Shape Border Management: A Review of Approaches during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Reports
January 2023

Using Risk Analysis to Shape Border Management: A Review of Approaches during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The near universal adoption of travel measures by governments to control the spread of COVID-19 has proved controversial during the pandemic. National responses have been highly varied and frequently changing, and the use of travel measures—ranging from advisories and screening to quarantine, testing, immunity certification, and restrictions on entry—has been poorly coordinated across jurisdictions. Particularly in the early stages of the crisis, this created chaos for travelers and the travel sector, and caused significant economic and social harms. Many governments also failed to clearly communicate the rationale for using travel measures, the evidence underpinning them, and the measures’ role within overall pandemic response strategies.

There is now substantial evidence that these measures’ early and stringent use by some governments during the initial stages of the pandemic slowed the importation of the virus and reduced its onward transmission. Yet, there is also growing recognition of weaknesses in the quality of evidence available to inform policy decisions. Evaluating the appropriateness of travel measures and applying them effectively during future public-health emergencies will depend on international consensus on methodologies that lead to a more harmonized and coordinated approach and to greater public trust in policy decisions.

This report presents a comparative analysis of 11 publicly available methodologies used to assess travel-related risks during the pandemic—those of Hong Kong, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan, United Kingdom, United States, International Civil Aviation Organization, International Air Transport Association, World Health Organization, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and European Union. It offers a set of lessons learned and recommendations, including a proposed decision instrument that could improve the use of risk analysis for border management during future public-health emergencies.

Table of Contents 

1  Introduction

2  Travel-Related Risk Analysis Methodologies

3  Comparing Travel-Related Risk Analysis during the COVID-19 Pandemic
A. Hazard Identification: What Is the Source of Hazard?
B. Hazard Characterization: What Is the Nature of the Hazard?
C. Exposure Assessment: Who Is at Risk?
D. Risk Characterization: How Is the Level of Risk Calculated?
E. Risk Evaluation: What Level of Risk Is Tolerated?
F. Option Assessment: How Are Risk Mitigation Measures Chosen?

4  Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic
A. Methodologies Were Not Sufficiently Transparent
B. Use of Risk Analysis and Pandemic Response Strategies Were Closely Linked
C. Travel-Related Risk Analysis Requires Better-Quality and Timely Data

5  Toward a Decision Instrument for Pandemic Travel Measures

6  Recommendations

Appendices
Appendix A. Glossary
Appendix B. Case Studies of Risk Assessment by Selected International Organizations, Regions, and Countries