COVID-19 tests should get importance in international travel: WHO

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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COVID-19 tests should be given more prominence in international travel rather than the quarantines, the chair of the World Health Organization’s Emergency Committee opined.

The UN agency must come up with new travel guidelines for making international air transportation more secure, says Didier Houssin, chair of the independent panel of experts advising WHO on the COVID-19 pandemic.

“And clearly the use of the tests is certainly now supposed to have a much larger place compared to quarantine, for example, which would certainly facilitate things considering all the efforts which have been made by airlines and by airports,” Mr. Houssin said.

WHO’s emergency program Executive Director Dr. Mike Ryan stated that traveling now is comparatively safer than previous months and it brings less health risk but he also stressed that it can’t be said that zero risks are involved.

Mike Ryan
Mike Ryan
Executive Director
Health Emergencies Program

“Therefore it is a trade-off that countries have to make, the risk of a traveler arriving and potentially starting another chain of transmission, against the obvious benefit of allowing travel from a social and an economic point of view. You can add testing and different measures into that. We are looking at that right now. We’ll be coming out very soon with more advice for countries in terms of the risk management process.”

Dr. Ryan further stated that an international team of scientists led by the WHO had held their first virtual meeting with Chinese counterparts for a joint investigation about the origin of the novel coronavirus that came in China last December.

“We fully expect the team to deploy on the ground. We are scientists, we want the best possible scientific outcome generating the best possible evidence for the origin of this disease,” Dr. Ryan said, without specifying any timeline for the investigation.

Dr. Ryan further exclaimed that it was difficult to conduct any scientific work on the virus origin, especially in an environment where there is prevailing political tension.