By Sola Ogundipe
The World Health Organisation, WHO, has urged travellers that have been medically determined to be at higher risk of a poor outcome if exposed to COVID-19, to embark only on essential journeys in the wake of the easing of the COVID-19 lockdown.
According to the health agency, people who are aged over 60 years, and people who have underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease or high blood pressure are among those at greater risk of developing severe or critical illness if infected with the coronavirus which causes COVID-19.
Making the call on the weekend, the Technical Officer of the WHO Regional Office for Africa, Dr Mary Stephen, said high-risk travellers must consider their safety and the importance of following preventative measures before embarking on trips.
Stephen who spoke about what factors must be considered said: “When travelling during the COVID-19 pandemic, the first thing every traveller must consider is whether the travel is essential because we cannot eliminate risks by 100 per cent even though there are risk mitigation measures in place.
“High-risk travellers should weigh the reasons for travelling. People that are old and people with co-morbidities need to critically examine their trips and consider whether the trips are essential or not before they embark on such trips.
“Generally for all travellers, they have to make sure that they observe preventive measures such as keeping more than one metre away from others. They must wear face masks, observe regular hand washing or hand hygiene and observe respiratory etiquette.”
Further, Stephen recalled that the WHO recommends that all governments should conduct a risk assessment, even as they need to build and support the management of Public Health Emergencies of International Concern, PHEIC, under the International Health Regulations, IHR.
“This will include exit and entry screening as well as follow up of travellers and the management of ill travellers ranging from detection of those that are sick, contact tracing, isolation, treatment including referral. Patients are not expected to pay for these services.
“The third thing that governments can do is to make sure that there is multisectoral collaboration happening at the points of entry and lastly, ensuring the safety of travellers. This will involve providing a safe place for them, ensuring regular cleaning of surfaces that people touch most of the time, providing facilities for hand washing, ensuring that travellers are wearing their face masks and that they are observing the respiratory etiquette,” she asserted.