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PAHO urges countries not to require covid-19 test from travelers

Airport movement during the pandemic Image: Getty Images

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) on Wednesday (23) asked countries that do not require covid-19 tests on travelers, insisting that these tests give “a false sense of security”.

“Opas does not recommend relying on laboratory tests for travelers,” Jarbas Barbosa, deputy director of Opas, a regional office of the World Health Organization (WHO), told reporters.

“They are expensive, difficult to implement and have a limited impact on controlling the international spread of the virus,” he added.

Health officials discourage non-essential travel this holiday season to prevent an increase in infections. For Barbosa, many people still decide to travel because they are more relaxed due to tests with negative results for covid-19.

“The test is an important tool to track and combat the spread of the virus, but we must be careful not to give us a false sense of security,” he warned.

The deputy director of PAHO explained that a person may have a negative test, but be infected and contagious to others, because it can take days before a diagnostic test detects a covid-19 infection.

In addition, as the tests are carried out a few days before the trip, it is possible that the person is infected before departure.

Barbosa highlighted the decision of some countries in the region to resort to “more common sense measures” to continually reassess their travel recommendations. “We hope that other countries will do the same,” he emphasized.

Colombia and Costa Rica have eliminated in recent weeks the requirement for a negative diagnostic test for travelers entering the country, following the PAHO recommendations issued in October.

Asked by AFP, Sylvain Aldighieri, PAHO’s incident manager for covid-19, said that among the “most common measures” are to prevent travelers from countries with high transmission of the virus or where there are already restrictions on transfers due to a situation complicated epidemiological

PAHO also recommends monitoring travelers for 14 days after arrival, but does not consider that they should be quarantined.

Aldighieri emphasized that these are PAHO recommendations based on scientific knowledge, but member countries are sovereign in deciding their regulations.

The possibility that a possible vaccine against covid-19 is a prerequisite for travel “is still in the process of being discussed,” he said, when asked about advertisements about it by airlines.

For the time being, according to the International Health Regulations (IHR), a legally binding agreement signed by more than 190 WHO member countries, the only health document required from travelers is proof of vaccination against yellow fever.

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