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Updated 15 June 2022

Health authorities in several European and North American countries have confirmed cases of monkeypox, a potentially serious viral infection, within their respective borders. This has led to concerns pertaining to a rise in the number of infected cases as well as whether or not those concerns will eventually result in travel-related monkeypox restrictions and/or ban.

Here’s what we know so far about the monkeypox situation and the current bans and restrictions.

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a viral zoonotic disease that occurs primarily in tropical rainforest areas of Central and West Africa and is occasionally exported to other regions. The infection typically causes fever, rash, and swollen lymph nodes, and may lead to a range of medical complications.

Monkeypox is transmitted from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as clothing, bedding, or other items used in healthcare settings.

In most cases, people typically recover within two to four weeks without needing to be hospitalized. In some cases, however, monkeypox can also be fatal.

Are there any related travel restrictions and bans now?

Currently, no countries have applied any travel-related monkeypox restrictions and bans. However, should the WHO declare a monkeypox international emergency, countries will most likely resort to travel and trade restrictions and bans.

As per the WHO, any person with suspected monkeypox disease should isolate during the presumed or known infectious period, i.e., during the prodromal and rash phases of the illness.

The following counties have implemented an isolation period for individuals who come into contact with the disease:

Belgium

Belgium has been the first country to implement a compulsory 21-day monkeypox quarantine for those who have contracted the disease. All monkeypox patients are legally required to self-isolate for three weeks.

United Kingdom

So far, the U.K. has confirmed 321 cases of monkeypox. The Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has advised those at high risk of catching the disease (including household contacts and medical professionals) to self-isolate for 21 days. However, no one in the U.K. with a confirmed case of monkeypox is required to self-isolate by law.

Netherlands

The decentralized public health organization in the Netherlands (GGD) announced that anyone who has come into contact with a monkeypox patient would be required to quarantine for up to three weeks. The GGD keeps in touch with people in isolation and has requested that they take their temperature every day and stay alert for symptoms.

United Arab Emirates

The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has issued isolation guidelines, for confirmed cases in the UAE. Individuals showing symptoms of the virus are required to undergo a PCR test and if positive, they must self-isolate either at home or in the institutional isolation facility for 21 days. Those who have been in contact with infected patients will also need to confine themselves in a single room for a period of 21 days. If they show symptoms of the disease, they must visit the nearest medical centre or hospital and get themselves tested.

Canada

The Public Health Agency of Canada has advised travellers to consult a health-care professional or visit a travel health clinic at least 6 weeks before travelling outside Canada. Anyone showing symptoms of the Monkeypox virus should delay their travel and isolate themselves. The travel notice applies to 27 countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany and Spain.

Where has monkeypox been detected?

As of late, it’s been reported that the following countries have confirmed cases of monkeypox.

Canada, USA, UK, UAE, French Guiana, France, Finland, Portugal, Belgium, Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Canary Islands, Israel, Northern Ireland, Morocco, Greece, Denmark, Austria, Argentina, Australia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Sudan.

Has monkeypox been detected in the GCC?

The United Arab Emirates has now become the first Gulf country to confirm 13 cases of the monkeypox virus since 24 May 2022. As announced by the Ministry of Health and Prevention the first case was found in a 29-year-old woman arriving from West Africa, who is receiving medical treatment. The authorities have further insisted that they are “fully prepared” to handle any outbreak.

However, no other confirmed cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in any of the GCC countries. 

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health has also assured the public that no monkeypox cases have been detected in the country so far. Further, the Deputy Minister of Health for preventive health has stated that Saudi Arabia has the capability to monitor and discover any suspected monkeypox cases and is well equipped to combat the infection should any new case emerges.

Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health confirmed, in a statement, that no monkeypox cases have been detected in the country so far. The ministry has ensured that it has taken a full set of public health measures for early detection of any suspected cases, if they appear, in order to contain any possible spread of the virus.

Furthermore, the authorities have also directed its healthcare professionals to monitor potential patients who may have symptoms of monkeypox and to report any suspected cases.

Kuwait’s Ministry of Health has also confirmed that no monkeypox cases have yet been detected in the country. The authorities confirmed that the ministry is closely following the latest developments of the virus worldwide, and are taking all the necessary precautionary measures.

PCR test for monkeypox

Even though testing for monkeypox is not yet a prerequisite to travel, two medical companies, Roche from Switzerland and Trivitron Healthcare from India were quick to develop a monkeypox test.

Roche offers three kits in total, and one of them can simultaneously detects the orthopoxvirus and also monkeypox virus that has been worrying people in the whole world. Meanwhile, Trivitron Healthcare produced RT-PCR kits to detect the monkeypox, and distinguish it from the regular smallpox in under an hour.

If the cases of monkeypox keeps rising, it is expected that monkeypox testing will be a prerequisite to travel.