WHO: Risk of Covid spread as international travel opens

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 Rohit Shishodia
As the countries are preparing to resume international travel after unlocking their economies, the World Health Organization (WHO) has given a guidance note for safe traveling to prevent any possibility of Covid resurgence.

The UN health agency has recommended to governments that priority should be given to essential travel for emergencies, humanitarian actions (including emergency medical flights and medical evacuation), travel of essential personnel (including emergency responders and providers of public health technical support, critical personnel in transport sector such as seafarers and diplomatic officers), and repatriation.

The WHO has said that cargo transport should also be prioritized for essential medical, food and energy supplies. Sick travellers and persons at risk including elderly travellers and people with chronic diseases or underlying health conditions, should delay or avoid travelling internationally to and from areas with community transmission.

According to the recommendations, there is no “zero risk” when considering the potential importation or exportation of cases in the context of international travel. Therefore, thorough and continuous risk assessment and management will help identify, reduce and mitigate those risks, while balancing the socio-economic consequences of travel measures (or temporary restrictions) against potential adverse public health consequences.

The WHO has said that the decision process should include an analysis of the situation, taking into account the local context in countries of departure and destination.

Factors such as local epidemiology and transmission patterns, the national public health and social measures for controlling the outbreaks in both departure and in destination countries, public health and health service capacity at national and subnational levels to manage suspect and confirmed cases among travellers, including at points of entry (ports, airports, ground crossings) to mitigate and manage the risk of importation or exportation of the disease and the evolving knowledge about Covid-19 transmission and its clinical features should be considered.

The guidance note, which has been given on WHO’s website, also includes information on epidemiological situation and transmission patterns at origin and destination countries, public health and intersectoral capacity, required capacities for the mitigation of imported cases, coordination and planning, surveillance and case management capacity, international contact tracing, and risk communication and community engagement.


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