WHO says travel bans cannot stay in effect for good, more efforts needed at home to fight coronavirus

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Bans on international travel cannot stay in place indefinitely, and countries are going to have to do more to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus within their borders, the World Health Organization said on Monday.
WHO főigazgató

A surge of infections has prompted countries to reimpose some travel restrictions in recent days, with Britain throwing the reopening of Europe's tourism industry into disarray by ordering a quarantine on travellers returning from Spain, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a virtual news briefing in Geneva on Monday.

"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, Viet Nam, and islands in the Pacific and Caribbean – or in bringing large outbreaks under control – like Canada, China, Germany and the Republic of Korea, he said.

This Thursday marks six months since WHO declared COVID-19 a public health emergency of international concern.

This is the sixth time a global health emergency has been declared under the International Health Regulations, but it is easily the most severe.

Almost 16 million cases have now been reported to WHO, and more than 640,000 deaths.

And the pandemic continues to accelerate. In the past 6 weeks, the total number of cases has roughly doubled.

WHO emergencies programme head Mike Ryan said it was impossible for countries to keep borders shut for the foreseeable future.

"...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," he said.

"What is clear is pressure on the virus pushes the numbers down. Release that pressure and cases creep back up," Reuters reported.

Measures must be consistent and kept in place long enough to ensure their effectiveness and public acceptance, Ryan said, adding that governments investigating clusters should be praised not criticised.

What we need to worry about is situations where the problems aren't being surfaced, where the problems are being glossed over, where everything looks good.

Ryan said Spain's current situation was nowhere near as bad as it had been at the pandemic's peak there, and he expected clusters to be brought under control, though it would take days or weeks to discern the disease's future pattern.

"The more we understand the disease, the more we have a microscope on the virus, the more precise we can be in surgically removing it from our communities," he added.

Cover photo by: Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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