Coronavirus: UNWTO, WHO call for lifting of travel restrictions, claim they’re not effective

February 26, 2022 - 20:30

TEHRAN - The two UN agencies, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have agreed to collaborate on a global trust architecture for recovery of the travel sector.

In line with WHO’s latest recommendations for safe international mobility, a growing number of countries around the world have started easing their rules for international arrivals, including the easing of travel bans.

WHO experts have concluded that blanket restrictions in controlling virus transmissions are ineffective.

Such a trend is also consistent with UNWTO’s repeated warnings of the great social, economic, and developmental harm of restrictions.

“Guided by UNWTO, global tourism has followed WHO advice from the very start of this crisis,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili. He underscored the need to “continue to do so and to open up again, safely and responsibly, and allow tourism to deliver on its unique potential as a driver of recovery and growth,” according to the World Tourism Organization.

According to the WHO International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee on COVID-19, all measures applied to international travelers should be based on “risk assessments - including testing, isolation, and vaccinations”. Furthermore, the financial burden of such measures should not be placed on travelers themselves.

“As countries ease travel restrictions, health must remain the key priority. By basing their decisions on evidence and a risk-based approach adapted to their specific context, countries can find the right balance between keeping people safe, protecting livelihoods and the economy, and keeping borders open”, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The two UN agencies also stressed the need for clear and consistent rules relating to health and travel. There is a need for building a global trust architecture for societies and economies in the context of the pandemic, and there is a “real opportunity for tourism to contribute to that process, with UNWTO playing a critical role”, said Michael Ryan, Executive Director WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme.

Among the countries to have revised their travel restrictions is Switzerland, one of Europe’s leading destinations, which welcomed the UNWTO delegation at the beginning of a week of key meetings.

Experts believe that if properly managed, tourism has the potential to act as a force for development and opportunity, as highlighted in the sector’s enhanced relevance in the wider United Nations development agenda.

Over the past couple of days, destinations around the world report increased tourist arrival numbers on the back of easing or removing restrictions. This trend offers the potential to kickstart economic recovery and put social development progress back on track.