While countries have started lifting stay-at-home orders and other restrictions, the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) stressed that a slow, steady lifting of COVID-19 lockdowns is the key to economies and control of the virus.
Speaking at a virtual press conference from Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said releasing lockdowns is both complex and difficult, and signs of the challenges have already appeared over the weekend.
“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.
“I have previously outlined the six criteria countries need to consider before lifting stay at home orders and other restrictions.
“Over the weekend, further guidance was published that outlines the three key questions countries should ask prior to the lifting of lockdowns:
“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?
“These three questions can help determine whether a lockdown can be released slowly or not,” he said.
He added” However, even with three positive answers, releasing lockdowns is both complex and difficult.
“Over the weekend we saw signs of the challenges that may lie ahead.”
According to the WHO chief, the organization is working closely with governments to ensure that key public health measures remain in place to deal with the challenge of lifting lockdowns.
“Until there is a vaccine, the comprehensive package of measures is our most effective set of tools to tackle the virus.
“In this vein, new guidance was released over the weekend regarding both school and workplaces reopening.
“On children going back to school, decision-makers should reflect on a number of key factors when deciding on whether and how to reopen schools:
“First, a clear understanding about current COVID-19 transmission and severity of the virus in children is needed.
Second, the epidemiology of COVID-19 where the school is geographically located needs to be considered.
“Third, the ability to maintain COVID-19 prevention and control measures within the school setting.
“When reflecting on the decision to reopen schools, the local government should assess the capacity of the schools to maintain infection, prevention and control measures,” he said.