Geneva– Countries can save time in the short term by restricting travel to combat the new pandemic coronavirus, but the World Health Organization believes that “restricting traffic does not help,” an agency adviser said Thursday.
Dr. Bruce Aylward, who led a WHO team in China during the virulent COVID-19 outbreak last month in the Asian nation, said in an interview that travel restrictions “are generally not part of the arsenal to deal with such a situation. “
“What we see as a general principle – not a general principle, a pretty solid principle – is that restricting traffic doesn’t help,” said Aylward, former WHO director of emergencies, outside a room dedicated to the epidemic at the agency’s headquarters. . “What really should be of interest is where the virus is. Viruses in those infected, viruses in their close contacts. “
Aylward made his remarks a day after WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the global spread of the virus is now a pandemic, and that President Donald Trump announced that it would temporarily restrict the arrival of travelers from the majority from the countries of Europe. Other nations also increased their restrictions on crossing borders.
Aylward acknowledged that “people are confused” about the virus. He recommended frequent hand washing and other sanitary practices to avoid infection and a quick exam when someone suspects they have been exposed to the virus.
He also tried to undo some myths and misconceptions about the virus. He noted that people should not worry about products from places that have recorded significant numbers of cases and asked to remember that the “stuffy nose” is not a symptom of COVID-19, but high fever and dry cough.
He also referred to some comments that the virus could be wiped out in hot weather.
“Many people ask, ‘Will this go away along with winter?'” He said, stressing that the epidemiological approach requires locating and tracking the virus, and removing infected people from circulation.
“I would not bet on Mother Nature in this situation,” said Aylward. “I would bet on finding cases. In isolation (from patients). Track contacts. Tests, tests, tests ”.
In most people, the new coronavirus only causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. In some, especially older adults and people with other health problems, it can cause a severe illness, such as pneumonia.
The vast majority of those infected recover. The WHO says that people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those who have been hit more severely may take three to six weeks to alleviate.
Although the elderly or those with health problems are considered to be the most vulnerable, “people in their 30s, 40s, 50s get sick from COVID,” Aylward said. “Most of them will recover and be fine. Some don’t. And some will even die. ”
“We don’t know who. And we don’t know why ”, he pointed out. “That is very disturbing.”
Aylward said he had “extraordinary confidence in the ability of the United States to control the situation,” noting that a large number of epidemiologists in China – who managed to minimize infections – were trained in the United States.
“They know how to do these things,” Aylward said, referring to American experts. “And they have trained thousands of people to organize in the United States. If you mobilize that army, you defeat this new enemy. ”