DestinationsHow will travel be impacted with the monkeypox outbreak now a global health emergency?

No monkey business when it comes to monkeypox

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Countries have yet to impose any monkeypox-related travel bans.
Countries have yet to impose any monkeypox-related travel bans. Photo Credit: GettyImages/BeritK

On Saturday, 23 July, The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the growing monkeypox outbreak a new global health emergency.

With numbers now exponentially increasing, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the decision that “that the global monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern" and urged a coordinated international response to prevent the virus from spreading further and potentially escalating into a pandemic.

To date, there are more than 16,000 reported cases from 75 countries and territories, with Europe currently the epicentre of the virus.

According to the WHO, anyone diagnosed with monkeypox or display signs and symptoms compatible with the virus infection should avoid any travel until they are no longer considered a public health risk.

Are there any monkeypox travel restrictions?

Currently, most countries have imposed monkeypox-related travel regulations yet. However, several countries have set plans into motion to mitigate the spread of the virus.

In Japan, where there hasn't been any confirmed cases yet, the Foreign Ministry has issued an overseas travel warning on 25 July urging travellers to exercise an abundance of caution regarding monkeypox.

As of Sunday, 24 July, Singapore saw the addition of two new monkeypox cases, bringing the total number of infections in the country to eight. Those identified with monkeypox are immediately conveyed to the hospital, and even after tests return negative after a period of time, they continue to be isolated for further assessment. All close contacts are mandated to undergo 21 days of quarantine from their last contact with the case.

The Dubai Health Authority has requested for individuals in the UAE to self-isolated either at home or in an isolation facility for 21 days should they test positive for monkeypox. Those who have come into contact with infected patients will also need to isolate themselves in a single room for 21 days, and to visit medical facilities should they show symptoms of the disease.

In Belgium, the country has implemented a compulsory 21-day quarantine for those who have contracted monkeypox, with no plans yet for contact tracing or close contacts to undergo isolation.

Will large-scale restrictions be likely?

Large-scale restrictions are unlikely to be imposed anytime soon, at least in Singapore. Khoo Yoong Khean, scientific officer at the Centre for Outbreak Preparedness in Duke-NUS Medical School, told The Straits Times that monkeypox is a "very different" disease from Covid-19.

Khoo pointed out that Covid-19 is transmitted through droplets in the air while monkeypox is transmitted through close, prolonged contact with an infected person. "Therefore, there will unlikely be lockdowns or large-scale social or movement restrictions [in Singapore] for now," he said.

Former president of the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Associations and the Malaysian Medical Association, Milton Lum, summarised in an article published on The Star that while monkeypox is in Malaysia and it does pose some concern, there is no need to panic over it, due to the lower transmission risks of the virus.

According to Mohammad Syahril, a spokesperson for Indonesia’s health ministry, the country has yet to detect a single monkeypox case as of 24 June. Syahril said that the government will continue monitoring the global monkeypox updates and prepare detailed guidelines for lab testing.

Thailand saw its first monkeypox case on 19 July after a Nigerian man tested positive for the disease in Phuket and as subsequently warded. He had escaped the hospital and fled to Cambodia where he was arrested on 23 July. Phuket authorities are currently monitoring 19 people who came into close contact with the man.

The monkeypox alert had been heightened to the national level in Thailand following an emergency meeting of health agencies and the public health minister after WHO declared monkeypox a global health emergency.

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