Travel restrictions 'not enough' to contain COVID-19, says US CDC

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, 26 March) – A key official in the United States’ Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said travel restrictions are inadequate to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease.

Dr. Sarah Bennett, head of CDC's International Task Force for COVID-19, said governments should focus instead on what to do when the coronavirus hits inside a country, stating that every nation across the globe must be prepared for the next outbreak.

“We at CDC and WHO think that travel restrictions alone are not enough to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus around the world,” Bennett told reporters from across the globe in a phone-in press briefing held Thursday evening, Manila time.

Bennett also said cultural and social differences should be considered when responding to the outbreak of any infectious disease.

“I think that’s why it’s really important that governments and partners be familiar with the guidance WHO and CDC are recommending,” she said.

Bennett said guideline documents are available on the websites of both the WHO and the CDC.

She added that the CDC remains “committed” to help countries figure out which of these measures can be adapted to various nations.

“The U.S. government works closely with international partners and host governments around the world to prepare for, prevent, identify, and respond to health threats,” Dr. Bennett said.

“For this pandemic in particular, the U.S. CDC is working closely with the World Health Organization, our Ministries of Health colleagues, and other partners to respond to requests to assist countries to prepare for and respond to COVID-19," she also said.

Bennett said some forms of assistance the U.S. government has provided are support measures for laboratories and the coordination of emergency responses, as well as training for public health workers.

The Philippines’ main island of Luzon was placed under “enhanced community quarantine” since March 16 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the measures imposed were restrictions on land, sea, and air travel to and from the entire island, which will remain effective until April 14, 2020 unless extended.

As of press time, the Philippines has at least 700 confirmed cases of the disease, with at least 45 confirmed deaths. Twenty-eight people have also recovered from the virus.