Research

A rapid review of the effectiveness of screening practices at airports, land borders and ports to reduce the transmission of respiratory infectious diseases such as COVID-19

T Chetty, B B Daniels, N K Ngandu, A Goga

Abstract


Background. Travel screening for infectious diseases is often implemented to delay or prevent the entry of infected persons to a country/area.

Objectives. To evaluate the effectiveness of different point-of-entry screening strategies in achieving a reduction in imported COVID-19 transmission.

Methods. A rapid evidence review was conducted, systematically searching PubMed and Google Scholar and grey literature on 27 March 2020.

Results. We screened 1 194 records. Nine potential full-text articles were assessed for eligibility and included. Three articles investigated the effectiveness of entry-based thermal and body temperature scanning. Entry-based infrared thermal or body temperature scanning for COVID-19 was unlikely to be effective. Two systematic reviews found no additional benefit of travel restrictions/screening. In a COVID-19 modelling study, airport screening was not effective, with exit and entry thermal scanning identifying half and missing almost half of infected travellers. Two other modelling studies found that entry-based travel screening would achieve only modest delays in community transmission, while international travel quarantine could reduce case importations by 80%.

Conclusions. There is insufficient evidence to support entry and exit screening at points of entry, as these strategies detect just over half of the infected cases, missing almost half at entry points. The benefits of airport screening therefore need to be context specific and weighed against the resources and cost of implementation, the contribution of imported cases to total cases, and the benefits of identifying 50% of cases in the South African context with the country’s high HIV and tuberculosis prevalence and limited resources to deal with a pandemic of this nature.


Authors' affiliations

T Chetty, Health Systems Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Durban, South Africa

B B Daniels, HIV Prevention Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Durban, South Africa

N K Ngandu, Health Systems Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Durban, South Africa

A Goga, Health Systems Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Durban, South Africa; HIV Prevention Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Durban, South Africa; Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, School of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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Keywords

COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; Travel; Emerging infections; Airport screening; Thermal scanning

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 0;0(0):.

Article History

Date submitted: 2020-10-12
Date published: 2020-10-12

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