The Pointlessness Of COVID Travel Theatre

Most COVID rules are just rituals. They preserve hierarchies, but don’t change reality
3 min readMar 9, 2022


Airport travel is a weird hellscape where a mish-mash of government rules are imposed by private companies upon hapless people just trying to exercise their human right to move. The result is mountains of ass-covering paperwork, burying colored and poor people while the rich just fly privately.

And this is on a good day. This was before COVID-19. Now it’s sheer insanity. Let me give you one example.

I’ll discuss India, not because the Indian visa process is especially awful (though it is) but just because this is what I have experienced, and still haven’t cleared. We’re trying again tomorrow.

It’s like this all over the world. Countries are appearing to give a shit, while just dumping shit on anyone trying to move.

India’s COVID rules are:

  1. Fully vaccinated people can fly
  2. Unvaccinated children aged 0–4 can fly
  3. Unvaccinated children over 5 must get a PCR test

This is all buried in fine print, and all complete theatre.

Vaccinated people can transmit, so the vaccine certificates mean nothing. Unvaccinated children can definitely transmit, my son wipes his nose on me, so that exception will also guarantee failure. The only thing this rule is doing is protecting us from people aged 5–18, but that rule is so buried that people only find out at the airport, and they end up with a bunch of children screaming their lungs out.

Like my daughter, who bawled because her brother (aged 4) could go but not her, because of a technicality. I don’t care and these are the breaks, but the fact is that this does little to stop the spread of COVID. It’s just rules executed for the rules sake, a bunch of pointless ritual theatre to fight a disease.

Note that I’m not saying that sensible health regulations aren’t possible or good. Take China (besides its usual visa bullshit), where people have to get tested twice before coming. Onerous, but logical, and they’ve maintained zero COVID.



Indrajit (Indi) Samarajiva is a Sri Lankan writer. Follow me at, or just email me at