Pandemics: how bad before countries seal their boarders?

There’s a game, called Pandemic (now up to v2.5 and sadly ripped off by imitators) in which you’re trying to destroy the world with a pandemic by doing everything you can to facilitate the spread of the disease. I played maybe 8 or 10 times and only won once because several countries in the game are quick to seal their boarders and you only win once the pandemic hits and devastates every country.

In real life, how bad would a pandemic have to get before a significant numbers of countries decided to seal their boarders, meaning that they wouldn’t let their citizens travel internationally, or accept visitors from outside their boarders? We recently saw *some * countries barring travelers from a few others due to Ebola, but what about if it were say, a respiratory disease that spreads through the air rather than touch?

Many places did institute quarantines during, e.g., the Spanish Flu, but it wasn’t always to (nor is it always possible to) hermetically seal the borders. Entry and exit screening is only part of it; there are also restrictions on public gatherings (including schools, closing shops early, workplaces, etc.), quarantine of affected homes, face masks, hand washing, decontaminating surfaces, and so forth. That isn’t to say that places where rapid border closure might be effective, like islands, have not at least considered the possibility, e.g., New Zealand

ETA: clearly such a closure would have to be timely enough to be at all effective, but at the same time have to be in the face of a pandemic already known to be devastatingly bad. Consider what would happen if New Zealand could no longer trade goods or even import medicine…

If I sealed my boarders, they wouldn’t pay me rent.

Uh…you probably know that I meant borders. Seal their borders, not seal people living in another person’s house.

I admit when I saw the thread title, my first thought was, “I hope there was at least a cask of Amontillado involved.”

And yes, OP, we knew what you meant. :slight_smile:

I’m not sure a major country could and while some small places could declared it so it wouldn’t be so. To be frank, outside of maybe North Korea I can’t think of someone who would really try for any extended period of time.

Since today it would be economic and political suicide to completely restrict travel and import/export, it would take probably a pandemic of an enormous size, probably multiple millions or tens of millions of deaths before a country would even consider closing its borders. Which wouldn’t completely stop the spread of the virus anyway it just takes just one person to or infected item as few if any viruses spread only through the air.

"Stopping its spread

Coronaviruses “primarily spread through close contact with another individual, in particular through coughing and sneezing on somebody else who is within a range of about 3 to 6 feet from that person,” said Dr. Kathy Lofy, a state health officer for Washington, where the patient with confirmed coronavirus has been hospitalized.

If an infected person sneezes or coughs onto a surface — a countertop, for example — and another person touches that surface and then rubs his or her eyes or nose, for example, the latter may get sick.

It’s still unclear, however, how long the virus particles for this new coronavirus can live on surfaces."


Might want to qualify that with the “video” part- the Pandemic board game is exactly the opposite- you’re trying to quash disease outbreaks.

My cynical suspicion is that by the time a modern Western country would start considering closing their borders, the cat would be well out of the bag and taking a dump on the carpet, and it would be pointless to close the borders by that point.

I was thinking of boarding my seals, but if the quarantines get too extensive, where will I get enough fish to feed them?

As noted in a recent post in the nearby Wuhan Panic thread, Mongolia has sealed it’s border with China.

Define “significant number”. Two countries have sealed their borders with China due to Enkovee, North Korea and Mongolia. I don’t think that’s a significant number but it would be great to have a target/threshhold.

I can think of only one situation where it would probably be a moot point, and that’s if smallpox somehow re-emerges. People will be too terrified to travel.

“For the love of God, Montressor!”

Granted, it’s on a much smaller scale, but this seems to be exactly what China is attempting in Wuhan.

The hypothetical doesn’t work. Most countries lack the ability to seal their external borders, either for political or practical reasons.

When countries do try to close their external borders, it’s after they’ve already tried to close their internal borders. Which they do only when the disease is already present.

What about Iceland?

it isn’t that they lack the ability, but that they lack the will. take a look at the u.s. as an example. first the bleeding hearts would chime in with “how can we deny these poor unfortunates our aid”. next the democratic party would discover this largely untapped “victim pool” to exploit and set their judicial lap dogs to filing an endless series of injunctions against even the most mundane methods of protecting pour borders. by the time the dust cleared we would find our major metropolitan areas thoroughly infected and disease running rampant through even fly-over areas like a busload of two dollar whores with the clap.

face it folks - if worse ever did come to worst, we wouldn’t have a prayer and i doubt any other western nations would fare much better.

Trump has already sealed the borders to people from some Muslim countries and reports say he is going to add more countries to the list. The SCOTUS gave him the green light to ban people

When you (OP) say a country “seals its borders” does that also mean they aren’t allowing re-entry for their traveling citizens? Is that ever a thing?

In the game, the answer seems to be yes because all flights are grounded and all ports closed in each country that does it.

In real life if the pandemic is actually that bad a threat that a country thinks that being completely on their own without any access to trade is better than the alternative, I’d imagine said countries would warn their travelers that the borders are being seal on X and they’re on their own if they don’t get home by then.

If the situation is as bad as all that, you want to be sealing your borders NOW, not on Tuesday next or a week from Thursday or whatever, because if the borders remain open until then, whatever you’re trying to seal out will likely have arrived.

How about looking at it from a practical standpoint rather than your political fevers? If you seal the border, then all of your own citizens who are overseas will have to stay overseas, since the planes and trains and buses that would otherwise bring them home won’t be running. “US soldiers and their dependents stranded in Korea” would at least as much a red-state issue as a bleeding-heart issue; see also “my child went to Cancun on spring break and is stranded in Mexico” and “my mother went on a Baltic cruise and they won’t let her come home.”

Half of the fresh fruit and a third of the fresh vegetables eaten in the US are imported (the percentage is even higher at this time of year). How’s that getting here if the planes can’t land and the ships can’t dock and the trucks from Mexico are turned away at the border? For that matter, what about the exports? Aircraft parts from Kansas factories can be stored, although a lot of people will end up being laid off, but what’s Nebraska going to do with the beef that would otherwise be exported (amounting to a billion dollars a year)?

You talk as if all this international trade in food is actually significant. It isn’t significant in any way when you’re dealing with a reprise of the Spanish flu, or something similar.

People can live for a while without eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Especially now that (A) we have ready access to both frozen and canned foods; and (B) we have ready access to vitamin and mineral supplements.

As far as food exporters go–
#1–a large portion of the manpower that deals with that is probably going to be sick or dead or providing care for relatives anyway; and
#2–losing money really doesn’t seem all that important to most people when they’re staring the prospect of death in the face.