WHO works with Kyrgyz authorities to reduce risk of COVID-19 infection at border crossings

Crossing borders can pose a risk of COVID-19 spread unless appropriate steps are taken to mitigate it at airports and ground crossing points. In Kyrgyzstan, WHO conducted a survey at 3 international airports and 4 ground crossing points to determine the level of implementation of prevention measures on the ground.

Airport staff and ground staff were asked to complete a self-assessment questionnaire based on a checklist of key questions and considerations. The survey was designed to assess knowledge and equipment needed for responding to COVID-19 transmission risks, as well as to provide advice on how to reduce those risks among travelers, aircrew and ground staff.

Nurgul Akbaeva, who has worked at the Torugart border crossing for almost 26 years, says the cold climate, and the virus, makes her work difficult. “My role involves checking the temperatures of all drivers and travelers crossing here,” she explains, “and to remind them to maintain physical distancing, practice hand washing and respiratory hygiene, as well as wear masks.”

She says that, at the start of the pandemic, staff felt as though they struggled to get clear information about COVID-19, but the WHO and Ministry of Health provided printed materials and training which helped them to understand it better.

WHO Country Preparedness and International Health Regulations Officer, Akbar Esengulov, explains that the authorities in Kyrgyzstan developed an action plan outlining coordination mechanisms for points of entry into the country. “The authorities also reviewed lines of communication across ministries, partners, civil society and various levels of government,” he says, adding that the joint assessment will help to strengthen these measures.

The assessment observed all measures taken at the points of entry. These included the reporting and referral of travelers suspected to have COVID-19 infection, initial patient care, and the use of risk communication materials advising inbound travelers on when and where to seek medical care if needed. An updated national action plan will seek to address any gaps and improve the management of suspected COVID-19 cases.

The questions and considerations for the checklist are based on WHO’s interim technical guidance issued in the context of COVID-19, as well as technical guidance released by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) for the COVID-19 pandemic. They are also aligned with the core capacity requirements of the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005) core capacities for airports.

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