WHO urges nations to go slowly in easing COVID-19 steps

April 14, 2020

With COVID-19 activity stabilizing and starting to decline in some of Europe's hot spots but picking up in some middle- and low-income nations, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned against lifting restrictions too early while also noting that stay-at-home measures may not be practical for poor countries.

The global total has moved closer to 2 million cases, with data reported from 185 countries, along with almost 120,000 deaths, according the Johns Hopkins online dashboard. The global total topped the 1 million mark only 11 days ago.

At a WHO media telebriefing, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said in some countries, COVID-19 cases are doubling every three or four days, and though it accelerates fast, it decelerates much more slowly. "In other words, the way down is much slower than the way up," he said. "That means control measures must be lifted slowly and with control. It cannot happen all at once."

As some countries, including those in Europe, mull how to ease restrictions, others are considering whether to introduce them, such as those in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Tedros said that, in low-income countries, many people already live in overcrowded conditions, have access to few resources, and depend on daily work to eat.

For both high-income and low-income countries, physical distancing measures are only part of the equation and must be used alongside other steps, such as testing and contact tracing.

To help countries strategize how to lift the measures, the WHO, based on lessons learned about the virus so far, will publish new guidance for lifting restrictions, Tedros said. The six key elements are:

·        that transmission is controlled.

·         health systems can detect, test, isolate, treat, and trace every contact.

·         the threat to special settings, such as hospitals and nursing homes, is minimal.

·         preventive steps are taken in workplaces and other essential settings.

·         imported case risks are managed.

·         communities are engaged and empowered. 

Visit CIDRAP for more news