Tourism

Essential travel must be prioritised when international travel resumes: WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued advice for national health authorities on the gradual return of international travel.

In a document laid out to provide governments and health authorities of WHO member states with elements to consider when preparing to open their borders, the health authority has argued that essential travel must first be prioritised.

“WHO recommends that priority should be given to essential travel for emergencies, humanitarian actions … travel of essential personnel (including emergency responders and providers of public health technical support, critical personnel in [the] transport sector such as seafarers and diplomatic officers), and repatriation,” WHO said.

“Cargo transport should also be prioritised 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 World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), at least 40 per cent of nations around the world have eased coronavirus travel restrictions – around half (41) of which are in Europe.

The WHO said that in addition to the public health risk of the coronavirus, countries should consider economic, political, and social considerations when deciding on resuming international travel.

However, the health authority said that each country should conduct a risk-benefit analysis and decide on its priorities before going ahead.

It also maintained the position that travel restrictions alone are not effective in “dealing with the movement” of the coronavirus, stating that there is no “zero risk” when considering the potential importation or exportation of cases when resuming international travel.

However, health experts are not in full agreement with that assessment.

Dr Norman Swan, host of the ABC’s Coronacast podcast, over the weekend said: “Our experience in Australia is different”.

“The key thing in this which we’ve been saying on Coronacast for a long time now is that you go in hard and you go in early; therefore, I think it is probably quite reasonable that Queensland shuts its borders to people from Greater Sydney,” he said.

“You saw what happened with just a single man arriving in south-west Sydney from Victoria. That’s probably the source of most of what’s happened in New South Wales over the last couple of weeks.”


Featured image source: iStock/izzetugutmen

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