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COVID-19: WHO says there is no ‘zero risk’ for countries easing travel restrictions

Posted by on August 1st, 2020


The World Health Organization (WHO), has said that there is no zero risk strategy for countries that are easing international travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic. They, however, asked that essential travel for emergencies should remain a top priority.

While giving its long-awaited travel update, the United Nations global health agency pointed out that cross-border trips for emergencies, humanitarian work, the transfer of essential personnel and repatriation would constitute essential travel.

The WHO, in its updated guidance which was posted on its website on Thursday, said, ‘’There is no ‘zero risk’ when considering the potential importation or exportation of cases in the context of international travel.’’

A rising new wave of infections across the globe has led some countries to reintroduce some travel restrictions, including testing and quarantining incoming international passengers. The WHO had revealed in June that it would update its travel guidelines before the northern hemisphere summer holidays.

This guidance, though not enforceable, can be used by governments and industries to help shape policies.

The WHO had a few days ago advised that series of bans on international travel cannot be sustained indefinitely and countries would have to do more to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus disease within their borders.

The WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said during a virtual news briefing, that only strict adherence to health measures, like wearing of face masks to avoiding crowds, would help the world beat the coronavirus pandemic.

He commended Canada, China, Germany and South Korea for controlling the outbreaks and reducing the cases by adhering to these measures.

The updated travel advice contains minor changes from previous guidance, which also included infection control advice applicable to other settings such as social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands and avoiding touching the face.

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The WHO urged each country to conduct its own risk-benefit analysis before lifting any or all travel restrictions by taking into account local epidemiology and transmission patterns, as well as national health and social distancing measures already in place.

WHO said, ‘’Countries should continuously plan for and assess their surge capacities for testing, tracking, isolating and managing imported cases and quarantine of contacts.

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