QCOSTARICA – Swabs and compliance with quarantine for tourists entering a country are considered unnecessary by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
The PAHO warned that these measures generate a false sense of security.
It also suggested that countries “not depend on quarantines or diagnostic tests to resume non-essential travel,” through its director of Health Emergencies of the agency, Ciro Ugarte.
“As PAHO, we are very aware of the need for states dependent on tourism to reactivate their economies,” said Ugarte, stressing that the reopening of borders implies accepting and evaluating the risk of contagion.
On the other hand, he advised to monitor the state of health of tourists “during the first 14 days of their stay,” but not force them to isolate themselves.
This, he said, must be done with the collaboration of tourists themselves, hotels, and the tourism industry in general, and in a context of respect by the local community for public health measures to prevent infections.
Ugarte also ruled out that the COVID-19 diagnostic tests serve to prevent the spread of the virus, given that “many things may have happened” between the day the sample is taken and the day the results are received.
“The community feels safe when arriving travelers are tested, but that is a false sense of security,” he emphasized, noting that ultimately requiring testing can lead to “ineffective” use of resources.
The PAHO document on the resumption of non-essential international travel, dated October 9, establishes that the movement of people should not be allowed under restrictive measures in their community, and asks not to consider travelers as suspected cases of COVID- 19.
“International travelers should not be considered or handled as COVID-19 contacts and they should not be required to quarantine in the destination country,” he says.
Ugarte added, “it is not justified to apply interventions that can generate a false sense of security”, including screening travelers according to body temperature, filling in forms or statements by tourists about possible symptoms, or tests for COVID-19.
“It is not recommended to carry out or recommend tests for COVID-19 to passengers who are planning or making an international trip as a tool to mitigate the risk of international spread,” said the document, available on the PAHO website.
Ugarte said that PAHO is in “close contact” with various governments in the region in order to adjust the requirements related to tourism when reopening their economies.
The Pan-American body also announced on Wednesday an “affordable and reliable” rapid diagnostic test for COVID-19, capable of being performed “anywhere” and giving results “in minutes”, which – it considered – can transform the region’s response to the pandemic.
“Today, PAHO can provide access to hundreds of thousands of these tests through the PAHO Strategic Fund, and millions more are expected in the coming weeks,” said PAHO Director Carissa Etienne, reporting on pilot studies in Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico and Suriname.
“If widely distributed, this new test will transform our response to COVID-19,” he said.