World Tourism Organization, World Health Organization Call for Proportionate Response on Coronavirus

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The World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) have issued a joint statement calling for responsibility and cooperation on the coronavirus outbreak. 

“The tourism sector is fully committed to putting people and their well-being first. International cooperation is vital for ensuring the sector can effectively contribute to the containment of COVID-19,” the statement read. “UNWTO and WHO are working in close consultation and with other partners to assist States in ensuring that health measures be implemented in ways that minimize unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade.”

The two organizations said that the tourism sector’s response to the outbreak needs to be “measured and consistent, proportionate to the public health threat and based on local risk assessment, involving every part of the tourism value chain – public bodies, private companies and tourists, in line with WHO’s overall guidance and recommendations.”

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The UNWTO and WHO said that they will work closely with all affected communities and countries affected by the outbreak. “Travel restrictions going beyond these may cause unnecessary interference with international traffic, including negative repercussions on the tourism sector,” the two organizations warned. 

“At this challenging time, UNWTO and WHO join the international community in standing in solidarity with affected countries,” the two organizations said. 

The impact from the coronavirus on the travel industry has spread well beyond China, with South Korea and Italy particularly hard-hit. The U.S. State Department has issued a Level 3 advisory to avoid nonessential travel to South Korea due to the outbreak, prompting the “Big 3” U.S. airlines to issue travel waivers and Delta to scale back its flight schedule to the country

In Italy, officials cancelled or postponed a number of major events, including the cancellation of the last two days of Carnival celebrations in Venice and the postponement of the Salone del Mobile.Milano in Milan, a major design and furnishing event. 

The WHO declared the coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern in January 30. In a media briefing Thursday, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that, while the organization is continuing to monitor the evolution of the epidemic closely, it is still too early to declare the situation a pandemic. 

“Using the word pandemic carelessly has no tangible benefit, but it does have significant risk in terms of amplifying unnecessary and unjustified fear and stigma, and paralyzing systems,” Dr. Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “It may also signal that we can no longer contain the virus, which is not true. We are in a fight that can be won if we do the right things.”

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the WHO have also called for cooperation on a measured, consistent and proportionate response to the public health threat posed by the outbreak. 

There are currently over 81,100 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in 38 countries worldwide, including Algeria, which marks the first country in the African region to report a case of the illness. There are also now officially more new cases reported from countries outside of China than from within China. There have been 2,762 people killed by the illness thus far, 44 of whom were outside of China. 

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