The Director General of World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has cited Rwanda among countries which are successfully implementing strict adherence to measures against New Coronavirus as the country plans to reopen airports on August 1.
WHO has urged countries to lift travel bans imposed due to COVID-19, by reopening airports and borders and instead direct efforts towards strict adherence to safety measures and precautions.
In the wake of a new wave of cases across the world, the global health body said on Monday that travel bans cannot be indefinite but strict adherence to health measures would help countries to manage the virus, mentioning Rwanda among the countries which are doing well in containing the outbreak.
Dr Tedros said during a virtual news briefing on Monday that countries should do more to reduce the spread of COVID-19 within their borders and allow travel to resume, signalling the possibility of the virus staying much longer than expected.
“Where these measures are followed, cases go down. Where they are not, cases go up,” emphasising that adhering to health measures including wearing masks, avoiding crowds, ensuring social distancing and hygiene would be key in managing the outbreak.
“Countries and communities that have followed this advice carefully and consistently have done well, either in preventing large-scale outbreaks – like Cambodia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Thailand, Vietnam and the Pacific & Caribbean islands – or in bringing large outbreaks under control – like Canada, China, Germany and South Korea,” Dr Tedros said.
The Head of WHO Emergencies Programme, Mike Ryan said that travel bans are not sustainable any more as economies continue to be hard hit.
“It is going to be almost impossible for individual countries to keep their borders shut for the foreseeable future. Economies have to open up, people have to work, trade has to resume,” he said.
“What is clear is pressure on the virus pushes the numbers down. Release that pressure and cases creep back up,” Ryan said.
WHO to reassess Pandemic status
Dr Tedros also said that the WHO emergency committee will convene to assess if the declaration that the outbreak constituted a “public health emergency of international concern” can be revised or maintained.
“As required under the International Health Regulations, I will reconvene the Emergency Committee later this week to re-evaluate the COVID-19 pandemic and advise me accordingly,” he said, adding that the virus has changed the world.
“It has brought people, communities and nations together, and driven them apart. It has shown what humans are capable of – both positively and negatively. We have learned an enormous amount, and we’re still learning,”
If the status is revised and it is found that the pandemic no longer constitutes a global public health emergency, focus will be shifted towards containing the virus while allowing global economies to reopen.
This Thursday will mark 6 months since WHO declared COVID-19 a public health emergency of international concern on January 30.
Dr Tedros said that it is the 6th time a global health emergency has been declared under the International Health Regulations, but COVID-19 has been by far the most severe pandemic.
“Almost 16 million #COVID19 cases have now been reported to WHO, and more than 640,000 deaths and the pandemic continues to accelerate. In the past 6 weeks, the total number of cases has roughly doubled,”
“When I declared a public health emergency of international concern on the 30th of January – the highest level of alarm under international law – there were less than 100 COVID-19 cases outside of China, and no deaths,” Dr Tedros said on Monday.