Speaking at a press briefing at the WHO’s Geneva headquarters on February 17, Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Health Emergencies Program, voiced the opinion that cruise-ship travel still remains a “manageable risk”, despite concerns surrounding the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Ryan emphasized to the assembled media that the vast majority of COVID-19 cases are occurring in China, near the virus’ origin, and that the global public should avoid rushing to judgment when it comes to the likelihood of the disease appearing aboard cruise vessels operating in other parts of the world, Bloomberg reported.
“People say we should steer clear of cruise ships, or steer clear of airports or steer clear of certain ethnic groups,” he said. “We have to be really careful,” he pointed out, of such suggestions. “We need an approach to managing risk that allows us to continue to operate as a society.”
Much of the present panic surrounding cruising proceeds from worldwide coverage of situation aboard the Diamond Princess, where hundreds of passengers were diagnosed with COVID-19 and remain in treatment under quarantine outside of Yokohama, Japan, with the first of those that tested negative for the infection finally being allowed to disembark just yesterday.
There was also plenty of speculation and fear attached to the Holland America vessel, the M.S. Westerdam, which was stuck at sea for a week while attempting secure permission to dock virtually anywhere in Asia, despite its passengers showing no signs of infection.
However, we must keep in mind that both of these ships were sailing itineraries around the affected region, where a higher concentration of cases can still be found than in, say, North America or Europe. “If we’re going to disrupt every cruise ship in the world on the off chance that there might be some potential contact with some potential pathogen, then where do we stop?” Ryan asked.
“Of all cases outside #China, over 1/2 are among passengers on the #DiamondPrincess cruise ship.
The first passengers have now disembarked, providing they have a negative test, no symptoms and no contact with a confirmed case in the past 14 days”[email protected] #COVID19 #coronavirus
The WHO’s overall stance suggests that we should maintain perspective of these incidents within the global scheme of things. Even its latest situation report, dated February 19, 2020, the organization has yet to advise any major restrictions on international travel.
According to the update: “WHO does not recommend any specific health measures for travelers. In case of symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness either during or after travel, travelers are encouraged to seek medical attention and share their travel history with their health care provider.”
Despite the WHO’s dearth of barriers to international travel, Bloomberg’s investigation tallied more than 50 global nations and territories that have now implemented their own travel restrictions in response to the virus, as outlined in the latest data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Recommendations issued by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) focus on maintaining best hygiene practices and disinfection protocols for those taking part in international air transport operations.
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