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WHO urges safety measures as African countries resume air travel

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WORLD Health Organisation has called on African countries to take comprehensive safety measures to “mitigate a surge” in COVID-19 cases, as nations resume air travel.

  The African economy that is heavily reliant on travel and tourism has been struck hard by the global pandemic.

“Air travel is vital to the economic health of countries,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, said Thursday in a press release. “But as we take to the skies again, we cannot let our guard down. Our new normal still requires stringent measures to stem the spread of COVID-19.”

Earlier in the pandemic, 36 sub-Saharan African countries closed their borders to international travel, with eight more blocking flights from the worst-hit countries. Now, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Tanzania and Zambia have resumed commercial flights, and the 15 members of the Economic Community of West African States will open their airspaces on July 25.

The WHO recommended that African countries implement “comprehensive” entry and exit screening, maintain social distancing where possible, encourage “cough etiquette,” register incoming passengers and follow up with them to track the outbreak.

WHO’s press release came hours after Amani Abou-Zeid, the African Union’s commissioner for infrastructure and energy, said that the continent had lost nearly $55 billion in travel and tourism revenue in just three months because of the pandemic. Africa had previously expected revenue jumps in these sectors this year.

“We have 24 million African families whose livelihood is linked to travel and tourism. The blow is very hard, between the economic losses and the job losses,” Abou-Zeid said.

African airlines, she added, have experienced an $8 billion, or 95 per cent, drop in revenue, alongside other economic losses.

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