COVID-19 Is Becoming A '9/11 Moment' For Borders And Health

Health Aff (Millwood). 2021 Jul;40(7):1162-1169. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2021.00131.


The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the cross-border movement of people. As governments begin to reopen their borders and cautiously restart travel, their attention is shifting to border procedures that could facilitate travel while protecting the homeland from travelers who may be infected. This is not the first time in recent memory that border management has had to be rethought under the pressure of large external forces. This article examines parallels between the current situation and the early 2000s, when the September 11, 2001, attacks on US targets caused a seismic shift in managing borders. We find echoes of today's responses in the initial fragmentation and chaos of two decades ago, which eventually gave way to a coordinated international system. We also analyze the implications of the emerging border health infrastructure for other migration challenges-particularly addressing irregular crossings and the border "crises" they create. Because the aftershocks of the pandemic on all aspects of people on the move could be felt for decades, immigration, mobility management, and public health priorities must be considered alongside one another.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Emigration and Immigration
  • Humans
  • Pandemics*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Travel