Lifting lockdown too quickly can lead to “deadly resurgence” of the virus, says WHO chief

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on April 11, 2020

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) (file photo)   -  REUTERS

The World Health Organization on Friday warned countries against lifting lockdowns too quickly as it could lead to a “deadly resurgence” of the coronavirus pandemic.

“WHO wants to see restrictions lifted as much as anyone. At the same time, lifting restrictions too quickly could lead to a deadly resurgence. The way down can be as dangerous as the way up if not managed properly,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press briefing on Friday.

The WHO chief detailed how many countries have been witnessing slowdown of the Covid-19 outbreak and reporting less number of cases owing to the restrictions put into place to curb its spread. However, the virus has now been taking hold of Africa which could leave a major impact on its rural areas.

“In the past week, we’ve seen a welcome slowing in some of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, like Spain, Italy, Germany and France,” Ghebreyesus said.

“At the same time, we’ve seen an alarming acceleration in other countries. I want to take a moment to highlight Africa, where we are seeing the spread of the virus to rural areas. We are now seeing clusters of cases and community spread in more than 16 countries. We anticipate severe hardship for already overstretched health systems, particularly in rural areas, which normally lack the resources of those in cities,” he further said.

WHO suggested parameters

The WHO director-general suggested that countries should evaluate a few parameters before it considers lifting restrictions put into place to flatten the curve.

Countries should ensure that the transmission is controlled and that sufficient public health and medical services are available, he said. Authorities should ensure that the risks imposed by the outbreak in special settings such as long-term care facilities are minimized. Preventive measures should be put into place in workplaces, schools and other places where it’s essential for people to go before these restriction are lifted.

Countries should lift the lockdown only when importation risks can be managed and when communities are “fully aware and engaged in the transition,” he further said.

He also highlighted an alarming trend of infections reported among health workers highlighting the need for personal protective equipment and other important aspects of the overall public health infrastructure to combat the same.

“When health workers are at risk, we’re all at risk,” he added.

India’s plan

In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday held a video conference with chief ministers of states to get their feedback on the extension of the 21-nation-wide lockdown which ends on April 14.

According to an official statement, the PM had said that the states, district administrations and experts have suggested extension of the lockdown to contain the spread of the virus post an initial interaction held on Wednesday, as per previous reports.

Over 1.6 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been reported across the globe with the death toll surpassing 1 lakh according to reports.

Published on April 11, 2020

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