Countries must do more on the ground to halt the spread of COVID-19, within their borders, as travel bans cannot be indefinite, the World Health Organization (WHO) is saying.
The words of caution come as countries in Europe reinstate some travel restrictions and quarantine measures following a surge of new coronavirus infections.
Britain, for one, recently ordered a quarantine on travellers returning from Spain, prompting fears of a second wave in Europe.
Norway has similar rules and France has also has a travel warning. Both France and Germany have also both seen a rise in COVID-19 cases as the countries aim to strike a balance in reopening their economies while addressing new clusters of infections.
Speaking at a virtual press briefing on Monday (July 27), WHO’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the key to beating COVID-19 is for citizens to strictly adhere to health measures, such as wearing masks and avoiding large crowds.
“Where these measures are followed, cases go down. Where they are not, cases go up,” he said, applauding Canada, China, Germany and South Korea for keeping their COVID-19 situation under control.
It will be impossible to keep borders shut for the foreseeable future, said WHO emergencies programme head Mike Ryan.
“Economies have to open up, people have to work, trade has to resume,” he said. “…Continuing to keep international borders sealed is not necessarily a sustainable strategy for the world’s economy, for the world’s poor, or for anybody else.”
Ryan said people should expect for COVID-19 to resurge in areas with active transmission if restrictions are lifted and mobility is increased.
“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 said.
Health and safety measures must also be consistent, Ryan said.
“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,” he said.