GENEVA, May 11, 2020: Stating that lifting the corona related lockdowns are important for the economies of the world, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for keeping a close watch on the virus as most of the population is still susceptible to the disease.
“Early serological studies reflect that a relatively low percentage of the population has antibodies to COVID-19, which means most of the population is still susceptible to the virus,” said WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “WHO is working closely with governments to ensure that key public health measures remain in place to deal with the challenge of lifting lockdowns,” he said and underlined: “Until there is a vaccine, the comprehensive package of measures is our most effective set of tools to tackle the virus.”
He explained that there have now been more than four million cases of COVID-19 across the world. Over the past week several countries have started lifting stay at home orders and other restrictions in a phased way. Countries put these stringent measures in place, sometimes called lockdowns, in response to intense transmission. Many have used the time to ramp up their ability to test, trace, isolate and care for patients, which is the best way to track the virus, slow the spread and take pressure off the health systems.
Sounding optimism, Dr Tedros said “the good news is that there has been a great deal of success in slowing the virus and ultimately saving lives.” However, he said, such strong measures have come at a cost and we recognize the serious socio-economic impact of the lockdowns, which have had a detrimental effect on many people’s lives.
Therefore, to protect lives and livelihoods, a slow, steady, lifting of lockdowns is key to both stimulating economies, while also keeping a vigilant eye on the virus so that control measures can be quickly implemented if an upswing in cases is identified, he said.
Governments need to consider several key issues before deciding on lifting or relaxing the Stay-at-Home restrictions such as the levels of control of the epidemic:
First, is the epidemic under control?
Second, is the healthcare system able to cope with a resurgence of cases that may arise after relaxing certain measures?
Third, is the public health surveillance system able to detect and manage the cases and their contacts, and identify a resurgence of cases?