Recommendations for international travelers
It is prudent for travelers who are sick to delay or avoid travel to affected areas, in particular for elderly travelers and people with chronic diseases or underlying health conditions.
General recommendations for personal hygiene, cough etiquette and keeping a distance of at least one meter from persons showing symptoms remain particularly important for all travelers. These include:
- Perform hand hygiene frequently, particularly after contact with respiratory secretions. Hand hygiene includes either cleaning hands with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand rub. Alcohol-based hand rubs are preferred if hands are not visibly soiled; wash hands with soap and water when they are visibly soiled;
- Cover your nose and mouth with a flexed elbow or paper tissue when coughing or sneezing and disposing immediately of the tissue and performing hand hygiene;
- Refrain from touching mouth and nose;
- A medical mask is not required if exhibiting no symptoms, as there is no evidence that wearing a mask – of any type – protects non-sick persons. However, in some cultures, masks may be commonly worn. If masks are to be worn, it is critical to follow best practices on how to wear, remove and dispose of them and on hand hygiene after removal (see Advice on the use of masks)
As for any travel, travelers are also advised to follow proper food hygiene practices, including the five keys for food safety, as well as recommendations to reduce the risk of transmission of emerging pathogens from animals to humans in live markets.
Travelers returning from affected areas should self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days and follow national protocols of receiving countries. Some countries may require returning travelers to enter quarantine. If symptoms occur, such as fever, or cough or difficulty breathing, travelers are advised to contact local health care providers, preferably by phone, and inform them of their symptoms and their travel history. For travelers identified at points of entry, it is recommended to follow WHO advice for the management of travelers at points of entry. Guidance on the treatment of sick passengers on board of the airplanes is available on ICAO and IATA websites. Key considerations for the planning of large mass gathering events are also available on WHO’s website. Operational considerations for managing COVID-19 cases on board of ships has also been published.
For countries which decide to repatriate nationals from affected areas, they should consider the following to avoid further spread of COVID-19: exit screening shortly before flight; risk communication to travelers and crew; infection control supplies for the voyage; crew preparedness for possibility of a sick passenger in flight; entry screening on arrival and close follow-up for 14 days after arrival. (WHO recommendations to reduce the risk of transmission of emerging pathogens from animals to humans in live animal markets)