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COVID-19: WHO calls for stringent measures as air travel resume

By Oluwaseun Sonde

The World Health Organisation, Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti has said that Air travel is vital to the economic health of countries, but as Africans take to the skies again, people cannot let the guard down which still requires stringent measures to stem the spread of COVID-19.

The Director of the world body disclosed while held virtual Press Conference with World Economic Forum recently, She said the resumption of commercial flights in Africa will facilitate the delivery of crucial supplies such as testing kits, personal protective equipment and other essential health commodities to areas which need them most.

According to her, “to resume international air travel, WHO recommends that countries assess the epidemiological situation to determine whether maintaining restrictions outweighs the economic costs of reopening borders if, for instance, there is widespread transmission of the virus.

“It is also crucial to determine whether the health system can cope with a spike in imported cases and whether the surveillance and contact tracing system can reliably detect and monitor cases.It is important that countries have systems in place at points of entry including airports.

“Comprehensive entry and exit screening should be considered based on risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis, and as part of the overall national response strategy. Such screening may target, as a priority, direct flights from areas with community transmission.

“In addition, observance of preventive measures such as personal hygiene, cough etiquette, physical distancing remains crucial. Passengers should be registered and followed up, and if they develop symptoms be advised to inform health authorities”, she said.

She added that as African countries begin to reopen borders and air spaces, it is crucial that governments take effective measures to mitigate the risk of a surge in infections due to the resumption of commercial flights and airport operations.

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