WHO Says Travel Bans Aren’t the Answer to COVID-19

During a virtual news briefing today, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that the world’s nations must do more to stop the spread of COVID-19 within their own borders because bans on international travel simply cannot remain in place indefinitely.

Only through strict adherence to preventive health and safety measures, such as mask-wearing and social distancing, will the world manage to beat the pandemic, he said, adding, “Where these measures are followed, cases go down. Where they are not, cases go up,” Reuters reported.

He held up places like Canada, China, Germany and South Korea, where outbreaks and community spread have been brought under control, as good examples for the rest of the globe to follow.

Emergency program head for WHO, Mike Ryan, called it unrealistic for the world’s countries to continue sealing off their borders indeterminately. “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.”

Ryan commended Australia and Japan for achieving, “good success in containing the disease,” but cautioned that they could expect to see a resurgence of the contagion in areas with ongoing active transmission if they ease current restrictions or allow for increased mobility.

“And, that is what has essentially occurred in many countries, is that in nightclubs, other situations, dormitories, other environments in which people are close together can act as amplification points for the disease and then it can spread back into the community. We need to be hyper-alert on those,” he stated.

His point, essentially, is that containment measures only work if they’re applied consistently, and remain in force long enough to be effective, and fully accepted and adhered to by the public. “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 added.

The U.K. has just re-imposed a fourteen-day quarantine on travelers returning from Spain after a surge of new cases appeared there amid European summer vacation season, which is already meeting with much resistance from those who say that the policy will further weaken both countries’ economies, and stifle the tourism industry’s fledgling reopening efforts.

Referring to that situation, Ryan stated that Spain’s current conditions are nowhere near as bad as they were during the pandemic’s peak in that region and that he expects outbreaks will soon be brought under control, though the process could take weeks.

“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 asserted.

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