As the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues to evolve, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advises British nationals against all but essential travel, exempting some countries that no longer pose an unacceptably high risk for British travellers. This advice is being kept under constant review and may change at short notice.
The fitfortravel (for the general public) and TRAVAX (for health professionals) country pages have been updated to include a COVID-19 country specific risk-rating, with every country being identified as high, moderate or low risk and each rating accompanied by appropriate travel advice. This information will be listed in the ‘Alerts’ section on each country page of fitfortravel and the 'Emerging Health Risks' section of every TRAVAX country page. This risk-rating is based on a robust public health assessment of the COVID-19 risks for travellers to each country and is regularly reviewed.
This week, the risk-rating for the following country has increased:
The COVID-19 risk rating and travel advice from the FCDO is being kept under constant review and may change at short notice. All travellers are advised to continue following sensible precautions and consider the following sources of information listed below.
Advice for travellers
Before planning or booking international travel, please check:
Information relating to travel and COVID-19 is available on the TRAVAX (for healthcare practitioners) and fitfortravel (for the public) websites.
Information on COVID-19 for the general public is available on the NHS Inform (Scotland) and the NHS.UK (rest of the UK) websites.
Information and resources on COVID-19 for health professionals is available on the Health Protection Scotland (HPS) (Scotland) and Public Health England (PHE) (rest of the UK) websites.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) periodically publishes influenza characterisation reports, giving an overview of circulating influenza viruses. These reports provide details on current vaccine strains, summarise the development of viruses since the last report and closely follow the main developments for the ongoing influenza season.
On 8 December 2020, the ECCDC published the second virus characterisation period report for the 2020 to 2021 influenza season. As of week 48 of 2020, 288 influenza detections across the World Health Organization (WHO) European Region had been reported. Of these, 52% were type A viruses, with A(H3N2) prevailing over A(H1N1)pdm09, and 48% were type B viruses, with two having been ascribed to a lineage, both being B/Victoria. These figures represent a 96% drop in detections compared with the same period in 2019.
Source: ECDC, 8 December 2020
The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a year-long global campaign called ‘Commit to Quit’, which they hope will support at least 100 million people who are trying to give up tobacco products. This campaign aims to create healthier environments that are conducive to quitting tobacco, including advocating stronger cessation policies and increasing access to cessation services.
The WHO, together with partner organisations, aim to create and build-up digital communities where people can find the social support they need to quit. The focus of the campaign will be on high-burden countries, where the majority of the world’s tobacco users live.
Source: WHO, 8 December 2020
After consultation with consumer and industry stakeholders, the Food Standards Authority (FSA) has updated its shelf-life guidance for vacuum and modified atmosphere packed chilled fresh beef, lamb and pork. Food business operators can now choose a safe shelf-life for these specific products in-line with their existing food safety management systems, in the same way they already do for other types of food. The FSA believe that moving away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach will benefit both consumers and industry, and will continue to ensure high food safety standards and lower unnecessary food waste.
The decision has been taken based on a combination of evidence that includes expert microbiological advice, epidemiological information on the occurrence of botulism, and international data gathered over many years on meat products. Implemented correctly, the FSA conclude that these new guidelines will have no negative impact on food safety.
Source: FSA, 10 December 2020
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is to assess a number of emergency authorisations granted by EU member states for the use of neonicotinoids in sugar beet in 2020. The European Commission has requested this assessment, which covers emergency authorisations of clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and thiacloprid granted by Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Spain.
Outdoor use of imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin was banned in May 2018, and an application to renew the approval of thiacloprid was rejected by the European Commission in January 2020. The decisions were taken following scientific assessments carried out by EFSA.
EFSA will examine the justification for the authorisations, given the specific situation of each member state, and the availability of alternative means to protect sugar beet crops. The assessments should be finalised in the second half of 2021.
Source: EFSA, 8 December 2020
The European Environment Agency (EEA) has published a briefing presenting an overview of the latest policies and measures reported by EU member states to tackle air pollution, as required under the National Emission reduction Commitments (NEC) Directive.
In key points from the briefing:
- Policies and measures to reduce emissions of three important air pollutants, fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and ammonia, focus predominantly on actions taken in the agricultural, transport and energy sectors.
- One-third of national policies and measures to reduce emissions of air pollutants under the NEC Directive have links to national policies to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions under the Monitoring Mechanism Regulation.
- EU member states are more likely to report quantified emission reductions for those policies linked to greenhouse gas mitigation, and those selected for adoption at national level.
- Promoting consistency in reporting policies and measures on air pollution, energy and climate change can reduce red tape, foster policy coherence, and support the identification of synergies.
Source: EEA, 10 December 2020
The Scottish Government has committed to ensuring that, from 2024, new buildings must use heating systems which produce zero direct emissions at the point of use. A new build heat standard is currently being developed to help achieve this, and an initial scoping consultation aims to set out the Scottish Government’s high-level vision for the new standard.
The consultation sets out a range of outcomes for the standard to achieve, including ensuring new homes and non-residential buildings are affordable to heat, supporting the delivery of a continued supply of high quality homes, and offer opportunities for retraining and upskilling workers to install zero emissions heating systems.
The consultation is open until 3 March 2021, and can be viewed on the Scottish Government website.