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Seafarers on edge as monkeypox declared a global public health emergency

Seafarers on edge as monkeypox declared a global public health emergency
Sam Chambers July 25, 2022

Seafarers around the world are bracing for possible further inconveniences from port states in the wake of the World Health Organisation (WHO) declaring over the weekend that the monkeypox outbreak is now classed as a global emergency meaning it has become an “extraordinary event” that could spill over into more countries and requires a coordinated global response.

According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 16,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported in 74 countries since about May.

“We have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission about which we understand too little and which meets the criteria in the international health regulations,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

In the wake of the spread of coronavirus, many port states made crew changes impossible leading to hundreds of thousands of seafarers working well beyond their contracts.

At the end of May, Bangladesh became the first confirmed country to enact seafarer restrictions in the wake of the global spread of monkeypox, with other Asian nations looking at tightening rules too.

Shipping leaders have urged politicians to avoid any knee-jerk reactions as the world gets to grips with monkeypox.

“The legacy from covid should not be a knee-jerk, inappropriate or disproportionate reaction to news of every viral or bacterial outbreak,” stressed Mark O’Neil, president of InterManager, the global shipmanagement association, in conversation with Splash last month. “Each case needs to be considered on its own very specific merits and we should follow the recommendations of the World Health Organization in how we deal with outbreaks going forward. Monkeypox is very different to covid in symptoms and transmission and deserves a very different treatment.”