HPS Weekly Report
11 May 2021
Volume 55 No. 19
Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic update
Travel restrictions and self-isolation (quarantine) rules continue to be enforced in order to help reduce the global spread of COVID-19 and protect the health of the UK public. Within the UK, coronavirus restrictions are gradually being lifted, with timetables having been published for their easing in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The current UK travel restrictions are stringent and in place to avoid new variants being imported into the UK, and to avoid UK travellers exporting the UK variant during international travel. Under these restrictions, only UK travellers who have a reasonable excuse to travel abroad can currently do so, and it remains illegal to travel abroad for holidays.
Prior to travelling to the UK, all travellers must:
- take a coronavirus (COVID-19) test and get a negative result during the three days before travel to the UK
- book an accommodation and testing package through the UK Government portal
- complete a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) declaring which countries have been visited in the ten days prior to arriving in the UK
All travellers arriving into the UK must:
- quarantine for ten days
- take coronavirus (COVID-19) tests on days two and eight of quarantine
- follow the national lockdown rules for the UK four-nations country they arrive in
Quarantine rules differ for Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, therefore prior to travel, travellers must ensure they are able to comply with the rules appropriate to the UK nation they will be arriving in and reside in, if different.
Travellers arriving from, or those who have been in a red list (acute risk) country where travel to the UK has been banned in the last ten days, will currently be refused entry to the UK. However, British or Irish nationals, and those who have residence rights in the UK, will be allowed entry, but are subject to the ten-day quarantine period, which must take place in government approved managed hotel accommodation. The list of countries on the red list is continuously being reviewed and updated, and may change at short notice.
Country specific COVID-19 risk
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.
Advice for travellers
It is advised that travellers are aware of all travel restrictions, self-isolation rules and precautions they should take, in order to reduce their risk of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) before, during and after travel, as detailed on the fitfortravel website.
Source: TRAVAX, 30 April 2021
Polio in Madagascar
On 28 April 2021, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative reported three cases of polio in Madagascar, with two cases recorded in 2020 in the Sud-Est region of the country, and the other case recorded in 2021 in the Sud-Ouest region.
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, 30 April 2021
EVD outbreak in DRC ends
On 3 May 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared an end to the twelfth outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Since 7 February 2021, 11 confirmed cases and one probable case of EVD, resulting in in six deaths, were recorded in four health zones in North Kivu.
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, congratulated all involved in ending the outbreak, and stressed the need for continued vigilance to prevent further outbreaks of EVD and in containing other health challenges.
Source: WHO, 3 May 2021
ECDC publishes threat assessment brief on dengue epidemic in Réunion
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has published a threat assessment brief concerning the risk related to dengue for EU and EEA citizens travelling to or residing in Réunion, a French overseas department in the Indian Ocean. The assessment also considers the risk related to having an outbreak of dengue in mainland EU and EEA countries, following the introduction of the virus from Réunion.
In 2019, Réunion experienced an unusually large dengue epidemic, which was followed in 2020 by a second epidemic on a similar scale. Currently, Réunion is once again facing a large dengue epidemic, which is likely to be comparable in size to that of the preceding two years. The epidemic peak is expected to be reached in the coming weeks.
The risk related to dengue for EU and EEA citizens travelling to or residing in Réunion is currently high if they do not apply protective measures, while the risk of a dengue outbreak in mainland EU and EEA countries is currently assessed as low, with environmental conditions unfavourable to vector activity and virus replication. These conditions are expected to become more favourable in coming months, with high vector abundance expected from early summer through early autumn in mainland EU and EEA countries.
Information and advice on dengue is available from the TRAVAX (for health professionals) and fitfortravel (for the general public) websites.
Source: ECDC, 5 May 2021
WHO Europe launches new guidance on hand washing
On 5 May 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) European Region celebrated World Hand Hygiene Day with the launch of three improvement tools, which highlight the roles healthcare workers, infection prevention and control (IPC) experts, and hospital managers play in achieving effective hand hygiene.
These tools are designed to support the transforming of IPC guidance into action, with the aim of ensuring that local improvements associated with evidence-based IPC recommendations, including those for COVID-19, influenza and other infectious diseases, can reliably be put in place.
The tools cover three specific areas:
- respiratory and hand hygiene
- personal protective equipment (PPE)
- environmental cleaning, waste and linen management, and all elements of standard, droplet, contact and airborne precautions
Source: WHO, 5 May 2021
WHO publishes benchmarks to help countries reduce salt intake
The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a new set of global benchmarks for sodium levels in more than 60 food categories, aiming to help countries reduce sodium content in foods in order to improve diets and save lives. The WHO report that many people consume more than the recommended 5g of daily salt intake, putting themselves at greater risk of heart diseases and strokes.
The benchmarks are a guide to reducing sodium content in different categories of processed foods, showing countries how they can progressively lower their targets, based on their local food environments, while encouraging industry to lower the sodium content in processed foods accordingly. The WHO hope these measures will help achieve their goal of a 30% reduction in global salt and sodium intake by 2025.
Source: WHO, 3 May 2021