WHO guidelines on travel

Australia may still be a long way from reopening its borders to international travel, with last week’s National Cabinet meeting deciding to keep current restrictions on returning travellers to at least 24 October.

Despite the freeze in Australia, many other countries are starting to open up their borders.

In light of this, The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a document of considerations regarding public health, which it is urging national health authorities to consider when resuming international travel.

The guidelines urge prioritising essential travel and public health outcomes, but stop short of advocating for the use of ‘immunity certificates’.

WHO explains that the current scientific evidence does not support the use of immunity certificates.

“Beyond the scientific considerations, there are ethical, legal and human rights aspects related to privacy of personal data, medical confidentiality, potential risk of falsification or engagement in risky behaviour, stigma and discrimination,” the WHO document explains.

The guidelines say that any lifting of restrictions requires a strict risk assessment from both the departure and country and destination country.

“The gradual lifting of travel measures (or temporary restrictions) should be based on a thorough risk assessment, taking into account country context, the local epidemiology and transmission patterns, the national health and social measures to control the outbreak, and the capacities of health systems in both departure and destination countries, including at points of entry,” WHO explained.

“Any subsequent measure must be proportionate to public health risks and should be adjusted based on a risk assessment, conducted regularly and systematically as the COVID-19 situation evolves and communicated regularly to the public.”

WHO stated that all international travel during the pandemic involved a certain level of risk, so it was important to keep monitoring the situation and prepare to make changes, as necessary.

“There is no ‘zero risk’ when considering the potential importation or exportation of cases in the context of international travel.

“Therefore, thorough and continuous risk assessment and management will help identify, reduce and mitigate those risks, while balancing the socio-economic consequences of travel measures (or temporary restrictions) against potential adverse public health consequences.”

When do you think Australia will open its borders to international travel? Do you think it will happen this year?

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Written by Ben

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