Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak

26 julio 2019

On 17 July 2019 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). The declaration followed a meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for EVD in the DRC. It is considered that the EVD outbreak in the DRC has met the conditions for a WHO Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC)[1].

The World Customs Organization (WCO) has been closely monitoring recent developments regarding the current EVD outbreak in the DRC. Following the 17 July meeting of the Emergency Committee, the WCO has been liaising with the WHO to ensure WCO Members with public health and safety responsibilities are properly informed about the situation and are involved in national response strategies.

At the level of borders, many WCO Members play an important role in national response strategies to mitigate EVD-types of public health and safety risks. Customs administrations are often countries’ “first and last lines of defence”, and Customs officers are among the first government authorities to meet travellers and crew members on board arriving vessels, aircraft, and other types of transport. In this context, it is of utmost importance that Customs administrations with health and safety responsibilities are adequately integrated as part of the preparedness and preresponse mechanisms. It is equally important for Customs administrations to have knowledge about the precautionary and preventative measures to deal with potential high-risk situations at the border and about the health documents (Health Part of The Aircraft General Declaration, The Maritime Declaration of Health, Ship Sanitation Certificates) that the arriving conveyances are required by countries to submit prior to or upon arrival.

The WHO advises countries not to close their borders nor place any restrictions on travel and trade. Members are invited to consult the WHO recommendations for international traffic related to the Ebola outbreak in the DRC issued on 19 July 2019, as well as the information sheet that can be accessed through the link below.

The WCO will keep a close watch on the EVD outbreak and the associated travel- and trade-related developments in this regard. The WCO Secretary General, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, recently wrote to WHO Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, pledging the WCO’s support to global efforts to contain this deadly disease. “This type of global health and safety risks can have devastating effects on human well-being and the economic development of the affected country”, stated Secretary General Mikuriya. “The WCO is ready to support the WHO and its international efforts to eradicate the EVD and to prevent the spread of the disease.”

[1] The term “public health emergency of international concern” (PHEIC) is defined in the International Health Regulations as “an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response”. This definition implies a situation that is: i) serious, sudden, unusual or unexpected; ii) carries implications for public health beyond the affected State’s national border; and iii) may require immediate international action.