Since spring 2020, the latest information regarding the spread of COVID-19 in a country has been an important factor in this advice.
How does RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment formulate its advice on travel?
RIVM maps out the risks of travelling to, from and in foreign countries on a weekly basis. For example, we look at how many SARS-CoV-2 infections there are and how much testing is taking place in a country. But we also look at whether a Variant of Concern is present in a particular country and how prevalent it is. Figures provided by the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are consulted in the course of these analyses. This is the basis for the advice provided by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) and RIVM to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs determines the final travel advisory.
To support the travel advisories, RIVM compiles data from various sources and analyses the risks in various European countries on a weekly basis. The situation is also analysed at a regional level. The analysis is used by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the travel advisories for these countries. The following information is included in the RIVM analysis:
- What is the number of infections per 100,000 inhabitants?
- At the request of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, RIVM uses a signal value of 150 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the past 14 days.
- Are enough tests being administered?
- RIVM looks at the number of tests performed per 100,000 inhabitants per day. The number of people who tested positive for COVID-19 in the country is always taken into consideration in this context. If there are more infections, more testing is important in order to maintain an overview of the epidemic. If a country is testing more, then there is a chance that more infections will be detected. There are countries that test very frequently. As a result, the number of people who test positive for COVID-19 may be higher, without actually increasing the risk level. The number of hospital admissions in a country or region is also considered.
- Are there indications of increasing infections, or are there outbreaks and differences within a country?
- If the number of people with SARS-CoV-2 rises in a country, then RIVM looks at whether this is due to an increase in a particular region or city. The situation in that country is then assessed in more detail, looking at the data that a country provides through sources such as national websites or COVID-19 dashboards. In this way, RIVM can sometimes arrive at a more specific assessment for certain regions in a country.
- Have many people who recently returned from that country contracted COVID-19?
- RIVM looks at the number of reported COVID-19 infections to see whether people have recently returned to the Netherlands after a trip from that country. If many people travelling from a certain country turn out to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 after returning to the Netherlands, this may indicate an increased risk in that country.
- Is information available on the measures implemented by a country in the event of outbreaks or an increase in the number of infections?
- And are people complying with the measures? These could be measures in an entire country, in regions or in cities in the event of an outbreak or increasing number of infections.
- Is there a virus variant that is considered a cause for concern?
Which variants of the virus are circulating in a country? Are there any designated Variants of Concern? And how prevalent is that variant in the country? In order to prevent a Variant of Concern that is not yet present in the Netherlands, or only in a few rare cases, from spreading to this country via travel, RIVM also looks at the virus variants in a country.
Sometimes, not all available information is reliable or useful for an accurate assessment of the situation in a country. In some cases, RIVM requests additional information, e.g. through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or from public health authorities in a country.
We use this information to to make a proper assessment of whether there is a higher risk of infection in a country or region. The more data is available on the spread of COVID-19 in the country, the more specific and targeted the consideration will be.
The definitive travel advisory and information on travel during the pandemic is provided online at www.wijsopreis.nl.