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Travel and COVID-19: what the practice nurse needs to know

02 September 2020
8 min read
Volume 31 · Issue 9

Abstract

As individuals start planning travel abroad again, Mary Gawthrop explains the key considerations for travel health consultations during the COVID-19 pandemic

While COVID-19 continues to be a risk worldwide, lockdown and international travel restrictions are being eased in many countries, including the UK. General practice nurses have a role to play in assisting UK residents to make an informed choice about travelling abroad during this pandemic.

On 31 December 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) was informed of a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown cause in Wuhan City, Hubei Province in mainland China. On 12 January 2020, it was announced that a novel coronavirus had been identified in samples obtained from these pneumonia cases. Initial analysis of virus genetic sequences suggested that this novel corona virus was the cause of the outbreak. This virus is referred to as SARS-CoV-2, with the associated disease known as COVID-19 (Public Health England [PHE], 2020a).

The vast majority of people infected with COVID-19 experience mild-to-moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. However, older people and those with underlying medical problems, such as cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and cancer, are more likely to develop serious illness (WHO, 2020a).

On 30 January 2020, WHO declared this outbreak a ‘public health emergency of international concern’. During the following weeks, a number of countries implemented entry screening measures for arriving passengers from China and several major airlines suspended their flights to and from China. In early March 2020, many countries worldwide mandated strict public health ‘lockdown’ measures, including social distancing. On 11 March 2020, WHO's Director General declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. By 25 March 2020, more than 150 countries worldwide were affected, including the UK and other European countries (European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020).

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