As the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues to evolve, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advises British nationals against all but essential travel, exempting some countries that no longer pose an unacceptably high risk for British travellers. This advice is being kept under constant review and may change at short notice.
The fitfortravel (for the general public) and TRAVAX (for health professionals) country pages have been updated to include a COVID-19 country specific risk-rating, with every country being identified as high, moderate or low risk and each rating accompanied by appropriate travel advice. This information will be listed in the ‘Alerts’ section on each country page of fitfortravel and the 'Emerging Health Risks' section of every TRAVAX country page. This risk-rating is based on a robust public health assessment of the COVID-19 risks for travellers to each country and is regularly reviewed.
Since October 2020, the COVID-19 risk to UK travellers has decreased for the following countries:
- Australia (Victoria state)
- Canary Islands (Spain)
- Cayman Islands
- Greek islands of Crete, Lesvos, Milos (Serifos), Tinos, Santorini, Zakynthos and Mykonos
The COVID-19 risk rating and travel advice from the FCDO is being kept under constant review and may change at short notice. All travellers are advised to continue following sensible precautions and consider the following sources of information listed below.
Advice for travellers
Before planning or booking international travel, please check:
Information relating to travel and COVID-19 is available on the TRAVAX (for healthcare practitioners) and fitfortravel (for the general public) websites.
Information on COVID-19 for the general public is available on the NHS Inform (Scotland) and the NHS.UK (rest of the UK) websites.
Information and resources on COVID-19 for health professionals is available on the Health Protection Scotland (HPS) (Scotland) and Public Health England (PHE) (rest of the UK) websites.
On 15 October 2020, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands reported that a male patient had been diagnosed with West Nile virus (WNV) the previous week. The man had not travelled abroad recently, and is thought to have contracted the virus in the Utrecht region after being bitten by a mosquito. This is the first time that infection with WNV has been diagnosed in a person who has contracted it in the Netherlands.
Advice for travellers
- There is no vaccine against WNV.
- Mosquito bite avoidance should be practiced at all times, especially during peak transmission times and when outbreaks are known to be occurring.
- Outbreaks of WNV will be listed on the destination pages of the TRAVAX (for health professionals) and fitfortravel (for the general public) websites.
- Medical advice can be sought if symptoms develop, following travel to a risk area.
- Blood donors should note that if they have travelled to an area where WNV has been detected in the past four months, they may need to be tested for the virus before donating blood. All travel must be mentioned to the blood transfusion service so that they can determine whether a test is required. The Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) has produced a leaflet which details information about blood donation after travel.
Further advice and information is available on the TRAVAX (for health professionals) and fitfortravel (for the general public) websites.
Source: TRAVAX, 15 October 2020
On 14th October 2020, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative reported 11 cases of polio in Guinea, one each in Conakry, Faranah and Kindia, three in N’zerekore and five in Kankan provinces.
Advice for travellers
- Poliomyelitis is spread mainly through person-to-person contact via the faecal-oral route.
- Travellers should be offered a booster dose of poliomyelitis vaccine if it has been more than ten years since their last dose.
Further information is available on the TRAVAX (for health professionals) and fitfortravel (for the general public) websites.
Source: TRAVAX, 21 October 2020
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) periodically publishes influenza characterisation reports, giving an overview of circulating influenza viruses. These reports provide details on the current vaccine strains, summarise the development of the viruses since the last report and closely follow the main developments for the ongoing influenza season.
On 19 October 2020, the ECDC published the tenth virus characterisation period report for the 2019 to 2020 influenza season. As of week 39 of 2020, 164,917 influenza detections across the World Health Organization (WHO) European Region had been reported. Of these, 73% were type A viruses, with A(H1N1)pdm09 prevailing over A(H3N2), and 27% were type B viruses, with 4,480 (98%) of 4,569 ascribed to a lineage being B/Victoria.
Source: ECDC, 19 October 2020
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) report that as of 20 October 2020, 123 cases of Salmonella typhimurium (S. typhimurium) ST19 and one case of Salmonella Anatum (S. Anatum) have been recorded. Of these, 105 were in the UK, including the S. Anatum case, 14 were in France, three in Luxembourg and one each in the Netherlands and Canada. A case-control study in the UK, and patient interviews in the UK, France and Luxembourg, indicated Brazil nuts and nut bars as likely vehicles of infections.
Two batches of Brazil nuts from Bolivia, sampled at the British Processing Company B, tested positive for S. typhimurium ST19 (Batch A) and S. Anatum ST64 (Batch B), matching the outbreak strains. The ECDC report that it is likely that the origin of infections is contaminated Brazil nuts, but with the available data, the exact point of contamination cannot be established. Extensive recalls and withdrawals of nut products have been implemented since August 2020.
The ECDC conclude that the outbreak appears to be controlled, and the likelihood of new cases linked to this event is low, but possible. This is largely because nut products have a long shelf-life and people may have purchased the products before control measures were implemented.
Source: ECDC, 21 October 2020
Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and Public Health Scotland (PHS) are reminding consumers to take care when handling and cooking chicken products at home. This advice comes as both organisations are involved in a multi-agency investigation into a suspected rise in cases of Salmonella linked to processed chicken products, such as nuggets, goujons, dippers, poppers and kievs.
Since January 2020, there have been 390 cases of salmonellosis across the UK, caused by two strains of Salmonella enteritidis linked to frozen, raw and breaded chicken products. Of these cases, 32 were in Scotland.
FSS advise that people do not need to make changes to the food they purchase, but they should always follow good hygiene practices to help reduce the risk of food poisoning. These practices include:
- always carefully checking the advice on food packaging and following the cooking instructions provided
- following instructions to thaw or defrost before cooking, if required
- consuming or freezing food by its use-by date
- washing hands after touching raw chicken products, and before handling ready-to-eat food
- avoiding cross-contamination by cleaning any surface, plate or utensil that has been in contact with raw meat
Source: FSS, 16 October 2020
On 21 October 2020, Food Standards Scotland (FSS) updated its situation report on the food and drink environment in Scotland, highlighting the ongoing challenges for people to have a healthier diet. The report includes new consideration of the out-of-home environment, such as food bought ‘on the go’ and from deliveries and takeaways.
The data was captured prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and therefore provides a baseline for further investigation on its impact on diet in Scotland.
In findings from the report:
- There continues to be a lack of progress towards the Scottish dietary goals and improving obesity and diet-related poor health.
- Two out of three people in Scotland remain either overweight or obese, with a higher proportion of people living with obesity in the most deprived areas.
- Consumers continue to buy a lot of discretionary foods and drinks, such as confectionery, cakes, biscuits, pastries, savoury snacks and sugary drinks from shops and supermarkets, and these tend to be heavily promoted.
- Food and drink purchased from the out-of-home environment tend to be less healthy, with fried chicken and burger meals and sides among the top takeaway meals and dishes.
- People in Scotland support the food environment providing healthier food to make it easier to choose a healthier diet.
Source: FSS, 21 October 2020
Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has opened a public consultation on proposals for its new strategy for 2021 to 2026. The consultation runs until 18 December 2020, and seeks views on FSS’s proposed approach for delivering the strategy, and their choice of focus on the following five outcomes:
- food is safe and authentic
- consumers in Scotland have healthier diets
- responsible food businesses are enabled to thrive
- consumers in Scotland are empowered to make positive choices about food
- FSS is a trusted organisation
Source: FSS, 20 October 2020
From 1 January 2021, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) will take over responsibility from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Commission for carrying out risk analysis. The FSA and FSS will make recommendations to ministers on whether to authorise certain food and animal feed products, as well as any new products or processes for the UK market, where this is required by legislation.
These changes will impact those wanting to apply for the authorisation of regulated products, such as food and feed additives, flavourings, genetically modified foods or food contact materials. The FSA are running webinars on the 12 and 16 November 2020, which aims to explain how the risk analysis process will operate, and what businesses will need to do in order to apply for regulated product authorisation in the UK from 2021 onwards.
Source: FSA, 20 October 2020
Scottish Water report that the Scotland-wide network of public ‘Top up Taps’ has saved the equivalent of 250,000 plastic bottles, as people replenish refillable bottles out-and-about instead. To date, 26 taps are up and running, with more than 82,000 litres of water estimated to have been dispensed.
Scottish Water has confirmed it is to roll-out refill points at a further 70 locations throughout Scotland by March 2021.
Source: Scottish Water, 20 October 2020
The European Environment Agency (EEA) has published ‘EEA Signals 2020 – Towards zero pollution in Europe’, an overview of air, water and soil pollution, based on previously published EEA information and data. The report looks at different types of pollution and their sources, and examines ways in which Europe can move towards zero pollution in-line with the ambition of the European Green Deal.
The report outlines measures to improve air quality, details the main pressures on Europe’s freshwater bodies and seas, and examines how soil pollution remains a wide-spread and growing problem. An overview of trends in industrial pollution and how synthetic chemicals and environmental noise affect Europeans’ health is also considered.
Source: EEA, 16 October 2020