The World Health Organization recently urged countries to adopt comprehensive strategies based on local knowledge of where the coronavirus disease 2019 is spreading as keeping borders closed is unsustainable.
Border closures and travel restrictions remain an important part of many countries’ strategies to combat COVID-19. At the same time, the rising number of cases among countries that had loosened measures after appearing to get their outbreaks under control have spurred discussions of the possibility of another round of border closures.
The WHO warned that such measures cannot be kept up indefinitely, and are also only useful when combined with a wide range of other measures to detect and break chains of transmission.
“Continuing to keep international borders sealed is not necessarily a sustainable strategy for the world’s economy, for the world’s poor, or for anybody else,” Michael Ryan, WHO emergencies director, told journalists in a virtual briefing.
“It is going to be almost impossible for individual countries to keep their borders shut for the foreseeable future,” he said, pointing out that “economies have to open up, people have to work, trade has to resume.”
He acknowledged that it is impossible to have a “global one size fits all policy” for COVID-19 because outbreaks are developing differently in different countries. While countries with rampant community transmission may need to use the blunt instrument of lockdowns, others should be burrowing down to get a clear overview of where and how the virus is spreading at a local level.
As people adapt their behaviors for the long haul, including physical distancing, mask wearing and hand washing, governments have to do better when it comes to choosing and tweaking strategies to control the spread of COVID-19.
In the case of the Philippines where data indicates a weakness or failure in its chosen strategy, it may be time for the government’s much-maligned military and police dependent strategies to be reviewed so alternative options can be explored and implemented before the situation spirals out of control.*