No zero risk strategy for renewed travel during Covid-19 pandemic, warns WHO

Passengers exit Terminal 1 at Manchester Airport after landing on July 27, 2020.
Passengers exit Terminal 1 at Manchester Airport after landing on July 27, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

GENEVA • There is no "zero risk" strategy for countries easing international travel restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic, and essential travel for emergencies should remain the priority, said the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In a long-awaited update to its guidance on travel, the United Nations global health agency said cross-border trips for emergencies, humanitarian work, the transfer of essential personnel and repatriation would constitute essential travel.

"There is no 'zero risk' when considering the potential importation or exportation of cases in the context of international travel," it said in the updated guidance posted on its website on Thursday. A surge of new infections in many parts of the world has prompted some countries to reintroduce some travel restrictions. The WHO had said in June it would update its travel guidelines before the northern hemisphere summer holidays.

The WHO's guidance can be used by governments and industries to help shape policies, but is not enforceable. The updated travel advice is little changed from previous guidance, which also included infection control advice applicable in other settings such as social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands and avoiding touching the face.

The WHO's emergency committee was set to meet for a fourth time yesterday to assess the raging pandemic. The grouping, comprising around 20 members and advisers, can propose new recommendations or amend existing ones.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2020, with the headline 'No zero risk strategy for renewed travel, warns WHO'. Print Edition | Subscribe