Coronavirus: WHO envoy urges caution on overseas travel

Dr David Nabarro says he agrees with Tony Holohan on risk from international travel

 People walk on the beach near Shabla, Bulgaria. WHO special envoy Dr David Nabarro has advised caution on overseas travel. Photograph: Vassil Donev/EPA

People walk on the beach near Shabla, Bulgaria. WHO special envoy Dr David Nabarro has advised caution on overseas travel. Photograph: Vassil Donev/EPA

 

World Health Organisation special envoy Dr David Nabarro has advised caution on overseas travel amid the continued Covid-19 pandemic, saying “if in doubt, don’t go”.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1’s Today with Sarah McInerney on Friday, Dr Nabarro said he agreed with chief medical officer Tony Holohan on the issue of the coronavirus threat from overseas travel. He advised people to do their research and ensure that where they are travelling to is not worse than where they are coming from.

He also said that teachers’ unions and the Irish Government are right to debate the balance of risk of a reopening of schools in September.

This was “a tricky question”, he said. Dr Nabarro said he favoured a “gentle” return to schools, which meant a return “bit by bit”.

“There is a real challenge here, what degree of risk is appropriate or acceptable in that setting?”

Spike in cases

Dr Nabarro said he had been told that children are capable of understanding the need to practise social distancing if it is explained to them by parents and teachers. But schools needed to be prepared to close if there was a spike in cases.

When asked to explain what he meant by a “gentle” opening, he said he meant being ready to change tack “if things don’t turn out as hoped”.

“You may find that if you do it bit by bit it works well. I imagine you will do it very well, you will do it together.”

On the issue of face masks, Dr Nabarro said that airline staff, pub/restaurant staff, security staff and cleaners should all be wearing masks. He was glad that masks are to be mandatory on public transport in the State, and added that they should also be mandatory in shops and cafes.

Dr Nabarro said he understood decisions being made for economic reasons, but said such moves should only be made on a health basis. “In the end having a system that keeps us all safe is most important.”