People wearing masks walk into a subway station in Milan, Italy, on Feb. 24, 2020.(Photo by Daniele Mascolo/Xinhua)
The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a joint statement on Wednesday, calling for responsibility and coordination regarding the outbreak of the coronavirus disease.
In the face of travel restrictions in some parts of the world and an expected drop in tourist numbers in the coming weeks and months, the UNWTO, which has its headquarters in the Spanish capital of Madrid, said the two organizations "are committed to working together in guiding the travel and tourism sectors' response to COVID-19."
"WHO is working closely with global experts, governments and partners to rapidly expand scientific knowledge on this new virus, to track the spread and virulence of the virus, and to provide advice to countries and the global community on measures to protect health and prevent the spread of this outbreak," the statement noted.
"The tourism sector is fully committed to putting people and their well-being first. International cooperation is vital for ensuring the sector can effectively contribute to the containment of COVID-19," said the statement.
The two organizations believe that "tourism's response needs to be measured and consistent, proportionate to the public health threat and based on local risk assessment, involving every part of the tourism value chain - public bodies, private companies and tourists, in line with WHO's overall guidance and recommendations."
However, the organization warns against excessive measures. "Travel restrictions going beyond these may cause unnecessary interference with international traffic, including negative repercussions on the tourism sector," it noted.
The UNWTO and WHO said they "join the international community in standing in solidarity with affected countries."
The statement is released after the first cases of coronavirus were confirmed on the Spanish mainland, in Madrid, Barcelona and Seville in southern Spain.
Meanwhile around 1,000 people remain in isolation in a hotel in the south of Tenerife, the largest of Spain's Canary Islands, after a 69-year-old Italian doctor, his wife and two of their friends tested positive for the virus.