Tourism

“Impossible”: WHO warns against countries keeping borders shut for “foreseeable future”

Ali Coulton

Ali Coulton

The World Health Organisation has warned it will be impossible for countries to keep their borders shut in the fight against COVID-19.

This comes just days after Prime Minister Scott Morrison told A Current Affair that travelling beyond Australia’s borders was not “foreseeable”.

WHO emergencies program head Dr Michael Ryan (pictured above) told a COVID-19 briefing on Monday that travel restrictions alone are “not effective in dealing with the movement of disease” in the same way that hand washing or mask-wearing alone would not be effective.

“If we’ve worked very hard in a given country and we’ve suppressed infection to a very low level and we’ve achieved that over three or four months of very hard work what is the extra risk now of opening borders and increasing mobility and how do you manage that risk?” Ryan said.

“Again, it comes back to this idea that it is going to be almost impossible for individual countries to keep their borders shut for the foreseeable future.

“Economies have to open up, people have to work, trade has to resume.”

Ryan said there is no one-size-fits-all approach for reopening borders. For a small island nation with no COVID-19 cases, he said opening borders would be a “disaster”; however, for a country with a large number of infections, shutting borders “may or may not make any difference” to the spread of the disease.

“So, the consequence and the risk and the threat in a sense that a disease represents is not just the risk of the disease moving; it’s the impact that that disease would have when it arrives and we have to look at both of those factors to come to conclusions on that,” he said.

The World Health Organisation’s director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said strict adherence to health measures is the only way to manage the virus.

“Keep your distance from others, clean your hands, avoid crowded and enclosed areas and wear a mask where recommended,” he said.

“Where these measures are followed cases go down. Where they’re not cases go up.

“Countries and communities that have followed this advice carefully and consistently have done well, either in preventing large-scale outbreaks like Cambodia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Thailand, Vietnam and islands in the Pacific and Caribbean, or in bringing large outbreaks under control like Canada, China, Germany and the Republic of Korea.”


Featured image source: YouTube/WHO

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