The World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) have called for a “consistent and measured” approach to enforcing travel restrictions because of the coronavirus.

The Foreign Office (FCO) advises against all but essential travel to mainland China, and all travel to the Hubei province, where the virus began.

It has also advised against all but essential travel to the 11 towns in the north of Italy, where more than 300 cases of coronavirus, and 11 deaths, have been recorded.

Anyone travelling back from various affected areas around the world, including South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Thailand, Japan, Iran and Singapore, are being urged to self-isolate.

But the world organisations believe more strict travel restrictions than those already issued “may cause unnecessary interference with international traffic, including negative repercussions on the tourism sector”.


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The WHO, which declared the outbreak to be a public health emergency in January but did not recommend any immediate travel restrictions, said it was working with global experts, governments and partners to “rapidly expand scientific knowledge” of the virus.

It is tracking the severity of the virus, now also known as COVID-19, and plans to provide advice to countries to protect health and prevent the virus’ spread.

In a joint statement, the UNWTO and WHO said: “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. 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.

“Tourism’s response 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.

“[The] UNWTO and WHO stand ready to work closely with all those communities and countries affected by the current health emergency, to build for a better and more resilient future. Travel restrictions going beyond these may cause unnecessary interference with international traffic, including negative repercussions on the tourism sector.

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