Advice from the World Health Organisation in relation to the novel Corona Virus 2019-nCov

  • Published: 10th February 2020
  • Category: Briefings
  • Committees: Short Sea Shipping Panel , Safety & Environment, Offshore Panel, Health & Safety, Harbour Towage, Ferry & Cruise, Employment, Defence & Security


Since 10 January 2020, travel-related cases linked to Wuhan City, China have been reported in several countries. For details about the current outbreak in China and the exported cases, please refer to the WHO Diseases Outbreak News and situation reports.

Not enough is known about the epidemiology of 2019-nCoV to draw definitive conclusions about the full clinical features of disease, the intensity of human-to-human transmission, and the original source.  International travellers are encouraged to adopt usual precautions.

Coronaviruses are a large family of respiratory viruses that can cause diseases ranging from a common cold to Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

In case of symptoms suggesting acute respiratory illness before, during or after travel, travellers should seek medical attention and share travel history with health care providers.

Public health authorities should provide travellers with information to reduce general risks of acute respiratory infections, via health practitioners, travel health clinics, travel agencies, conveyance operators and entry points.

WHO’s standard recommendations for the general public to reduce exposure to and transmission of such illnesses are as follows, including hand and respiratory hygiene, and safe food practices:

·       Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water;
·       When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – throw tissue away immediately and wash hands;
·       Avoid close contact with anyone with a fever and a cough;
·       If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider;
·       Avoid consumption of raw or undercooked animal products. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.
·       WHO technical guidance on surveillance and case definitions, laboratory guidance, clinical management for suspected novel coronavirus, home care for patients with suspected novel coronavirus, infection prevention and control, risk communications, disease commodity package, and reducing transmission from animals to humans is available on the WHO website.

Advice for exit screening in countries or areas with ongoing transmission of novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV

With the information currently available about novel coronavirus, WHO advises implementing measures to limit exportation or importation of the disease, without unnecessary restrictions of international traffic.

·       Conduct exit screening at international airports and ports in the affected areas, with the aims early detection of symptomatic travelers for further evaluation and treatment, and thus prevent exportation of the disease. while minimizing interference with international traffic.
·       Exit screening includes checking for signs and symptoms (fever above 38°, cough), interviewing passengers with respiratory infection symptoms leaving affected areas regarding potential exposure to high-risk contacts or to a presumed animal source, directing symptomatic travelers to further medical examination,  testing for 2019-nCoV, and keeping confirmed cases under isolation and treatment.
·       Travelers in contact with confirmed cases or direct exposure to potential source of infection should be placed under medical observation.
·       High-risk contacts should avoid travel in the incubation period (up to 14 days).
·       Implement health information campaigns at points of entry to raise awareness of reducing the general risk of acute respiratory infections and the measures required, should a traveler develop signs and symptoms suggesting infection with the 2019-nCoV and how to obtain assistance.
·       Temperature screening to detect potential suspect cases at entry may miss travelers incubating the disease or travelers concealing fever during travel. However, during the current outbreak, most exported cases were detected through entry screening.
·       Risk of importing the disease may reduce if temperature screening at entry is linked with early detection of symptomatic passengers and referral for medical follow up.
·       Temperature screening should always be accompanied by dissemination of risk communication messages at points of entry either through posters, leaflets, electronic bulletin, etc, aiming at raising awareness among travelers about signs and symptoms of the disease, and encouraging health care seeking behavior, including when to seek medical care, and report their travel history.
·       Countries implementing temperature screening should establish proper mechanisms for data collection and analysis, e.g. numbers of travelers screened and confirmed cases, and method of screening.
·       Public health authorities and airline operators will collaborate for case management on board aircraft and reporting, should a traveler with respiratory disease symptoms be detected on board.
·       Previous advice regarding procedures for a sick traveller detected on board a plane and requirements for IHR capacities at points of entry remains unchanged.

Additionally the UK Government has launched a page with further information on this topic, which be accessed here: www.GOV.UK/coronavirus