The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that any premature lifting of restrictions imposed to control the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to a fatal resurgence of the new coronavirus.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus held a virtual press conference in Geneva on Friday (April 10).
He said that while some states were considering ways to ease the restrictions which have placed around half of humanity under some form of lockdown, doing so too quickly could be dangerous.
“I know that some countries are already planning the transition out of stay-at-home restrictions. WHO wants to see restrictions lifted as much as anyone,” he told.
“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 is working with affected countries on strategies for gradually and safely easing restrictions.”
Tedros stated six factors that should be considered before restrictions could be safely eased.
According to WHO Chief, the transmission would have to be controlled; sufficient public health services made available; outbreak risks in care homes minimised; preventative measures imposed in workplaces and schools; virus importation risks managed, and communities made aware of and engaged in the transition.
“We are now seeing clusters of cases and community spread in more than 16 countries” on the continent, the former Ethiopian health minister said.
“We anticipate severe hardship for already overstretched health systems, particularly in rural areas, which normally lack the resources of those in cities.”
Tedros said that even the countries with the world’s strongest health systems had been caught by surprise by COVID-19.
He urged countries to reinforce their healthcare provision rather than plunge into a “cycle of panic and neglect”.
In many countries, “we’re now in a phase of panic because there is this dangerous, invisible virus which is wreaking havoc,” he said.
“But that should actually lead to asking questions on what to do to strengthen our system.
“No country is immune.”