The World Health Organization this week recommended nations lift or ease their existing COVID-19-related travel restrictions, saying they could exacerbate economic and social stress related to the pandemic.
The new recommendation was made Wednesday by the WHO’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on COVID-19 following its most recent meeting.
The report says countries should lift the bans and restrictions because the committee found “they do not provide added value and continue to contribute to the economic and social stress experienced” by citizens.
The report said such travel restrictions failed to limit the international spread of the omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19, which, the committee said, demonstrates the ineffectiveness of such measures over time.
The report went on to say other travel safety measures such as masking, testing, isolation/quarantine, and vaccination should be based on risk assessments to avoid placing an excess financial burden on international travelers.
Meanwhile, the WHO this week recommended two new drugs for treating COVID-19.
The first drug, baricitinib, is strongly recommended for patients with severe or critical COVID-19. The drug is taken orally and usually used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. The WHO recommends that it be given with corticosteroids.
The WHO has also conditionally recommended the use of the monoclonal antibody drug sotrovimab for treating mild or moderate COVID-19 in patients who are at high risk of hospitalization. That includes patients who are older, immunocompromised, having underlying conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and obesity, and those unvaccinated.
With COVID-19 cases surging throughout the America’s, and COVID-19 test kits in short supply, Pan American Health Organization Director Carissa Etienne on Wednesday called on countries to prioritize rapid antigen tests for those with symptoms who are most at risk of spreading the disease.
Etienne told reporters at a briefing that 7.2 million new COVID-19 cases were reported in the region over the past week, and countries must “expand testing at the community level to relieve pressure on hospitals, which are working overtime.”
Given the current shortage of rapid antigen tests, Etienne said countries need to advise those without symptoms who have been exposed to COVID-19 to quarantine where possible and follow public health measures.