QCOSTARICA – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) urged countries not to require covid-19 tests from travelers, insisting that they give a ‘false sense of security’, and asked not to place them at the center of travel policies.
“PAHO does not recommend relying on laboratory tests for travelers,” Jarbas Barbosa, deputy director of PAHO, 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 authorities discourage non-essential travel this holiday season to prevent a spike in infections. But Barbosa said that even so, many people have decided to travel and feel calmer with a negative coronavirus test.
“Testing 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.
He explained that a person can test negative but be infected and contagious to others, because it can take days before a diagnostic test detects a covid-19 infection.
In addition, since the tests are carried out a few days before the trip, the person could still be infected before their departure.
Barbosa highlighted the decision of some countries in the region to rely on “more common sense measures” to continually reevaluate their travel recommendations. “We hope that other countries will follow suit,” he emphasized.
Colombia and Costa Rica eliminated in recent weeks the requirement of a negative diagnostic test (PCR test) for travelers entering the country, following PAHO recommendations issued in October.
Asked by AFP, Sylvain Aldighieri, incident manager for covid-19 at PAHO, said among the ‘most common sense measures’ are to prevent the entry of travelers from countries with high transmission of the virus, or where restrictions already apply to movement due to a complicated epidemiological situation.
PAHO also advises 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 when deciding their regulations.
The possibility that a possible vaccine against covid-19 is a prerequisite for travel “is still in the process of discussion,” he said when asked about announcements in this regard by airlines.
For now, according to the International Health Regulations (IHR), the legally binding agreement signed by the more than 190 member countries of WHO, the only health document that is required from travelers is proof of vaccination against yellow fever.