The possibility that free migration could exacerbate the spread of COVID-19 has caused many nations to enact severe restrictions on both international migration and domestic freedom of movement. Unfortunately, these restrictions have done little to stop the spread of the disease while inflicting enormous harm on hundreds of thousands of innocent people. In some respects, they even make the spread of disease worse. In the long run, migration restrictions also curtail the scientific and medical innovation that we need to protect against future pandemics and other health threats.
This publication focuses primarily on restrictions on international movement by people seeking to take up long‐term residence in a new country rather than short‐term travelers, such as tourists or people on business trips. However, some of the points made also apply to the latter. This publication also does not examine the other nonpharmaceutical interventions that governments have enacted that may have reduced COVID‐19's spread or death toll, many of which may be correlated with different types of travel or migration restrictions. It will likely be years—if ever—before scholars understand how nonpharmaceutical interventions of all kinds, including migration and travel restrictions, affected COVID-19.