Lifting restrictions too quickly can lead to deadly resurgence of Covid-19, WHO warns

The head of the World Health Organization on Friday warned of a “deadly resurgence” if restrictions to stop the spread of the coronavirus are lifted too soon — as political leaders across the globe begin to consider re-opening daily life in their countries.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the WHO, said it was working with countries on ways in which lockdowns could be gradually eased, but said 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 a virtual press conference in Geneva. “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.”

Tedros said earlier in his remarks that there had been a slowing of infections in some of the hardest-hit European countries such as Italy and Spain. At the same time, he said there was an “alarming” acceleration in other countries — and highlighted African rural areas in particular.

The WHO chief stressed that decision of lifting restrictions should be made on the condition that transmission is controlled; that sufficient public health and medical services are available; that outbreak risks in special settings like long-term care facilities are minimised; that preventive measures are in place in workplaces, schools and other places where it’s essential for people to go; that importation risks can be managed; and that communities are fully aware and engaged in the transition.

The WHO chief, who has come under fire for his agency’s alleged pro-China stance, has issued a series of warnings over the crisis. Earlier this week he warned world leaders against “politicizing” the crisis.

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