As Nigeria and other African countries begin to reopen borders and air space, the World Health Organisation (WHO), has called on the leaders of the countries to put in place measures that would reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus disease otherwise referred to as ‘covid-19’.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa stressed the need for governments to take effective measures to mitigate the risk of a surge in infections due to the resumption of commercial flights and airport operations.
He said, “Air travel is vital to the economic health of countries, however, as we take to the skies again, we cannot let our guard down. Our new normal still requires stringent measures to stem the spread of COVID-19’’.
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.
The WHO said, 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.
“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 those most,” he said