CORONAVIRUS

World Health Organization attributes travel restrictions on Spain to doubts about management of outbreaks

The comments from epidemiologist Bruce Aylward came on the same day that the country was confirmed to have the highest infection rate per 100,000 inhabitants in Europe

The WHO's Bruce Aylward speaking on Tuesday about travel restrictions on Spain.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday put the spotlight on the management of new coronavirus outbreaks in Spain to explain the travel restrictions that have been implemented by dozens of governments on the country. The countries are putting them in place due to a lack of information, said the WHO’s Bruce Aylward in Geneva on Tuesday, which means that they “are not able to manage the risks, and they are not able to understand the risks.”

Asked specifically about the WHO’s assessment of the travel restrictions placed by other countries on Spain and some of its regions, as well as the quarantines being enforced on travelers arriving from Spanish territory, the Canadian epidemiologist, who is leading the WHO-China Joint Mission on Covid-19, reiterated the messages voiced by the organization in recent months. “Our position is the following: you need to know who is infected with this disease, you need to ensure those people are isolated, and you need to ensure their contacts are identified and quarantined.”

When you have a flare, the first thing you need to do is test, isolate, trace the contacts, make sure those folk aren’t moving
Bruce Aylward

It is this information that the countries who are enforcing restrictions do not have, Aylward continued. “We need to reach a situation where we can carry out the tests and isolate people so that they can’t infect others and also isolate their contacts. At that moment the virus will not be able to travel,” he explained.

Aylward also pointed to the importance of strictly following “basic public health measures.” “When you have a flare, the first thing you need to do is test, isolate, trace the contacts, make sure those folk aren’t moving – that’s why we quarantine, and that’s why we isolate them. And then virus transmission stops,” he explained. “We need to return to the fundamentals of the management of the disease,” he added.

The comments came after more than a hundred states imposed some kind of controls on the circulation of travelers either into or out of Spain, according to figures from the Spanish Foreign Ministry. In some cases, however, the measures have been in place for several months. The highest-profile restrictions, such as those imposed by the United Kingdom, have meant a severe blow for Spain’s key tourism industry.

Spain has now overtaken Luxembourg and has registered 132.2 cases per 100,000 inhabitants

The WHO official’s comments came on the same day that the European Center for Disease Protection and Control (ECDC) placed Spain at the top of the list of countries on the continent with the highest infection rate in the last two weeks in relation to its population.

Spain has now overtaken Luxembourg and has registered 132.2 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. It is currently the only country with a figure exceeding 100, followed by Luxembourg (98.6), Romania (88.5) and Belgium (60.8). The figure for the remaining European countries is below 50.

This data is influenced, however, by the number of tests being carried out by each country, and offering a national average can disguise major regional differences on the domestic level.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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