COVID-19 New Strategic Advice : Time To Be Careful, Patient, Vigilant

The WHO Director General has announced the development of new strategic advice for countries considering lifting restrictions.

As people prepare for a new but normal lifestyle as lockdown restrictions ease, the Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during a media briefing on Monday, April 13, 2020 on COVID-19 said his organisation will publish an updated strategic advice with six criteria countries considering lifting control measures against Covid-19 should meet. The WHO Boss said while Covid-19 accelerates very fast, it decelerates more slowly and therefore control measures must be lifted slowly. “Lockdowns must be lifted strategically, and not all at once, countries with lower numbers of cases can begin easing restrictions. But measures such as physical distancing and hand washing will stay in place even after lockdowns are lifted”, WHO officials underlined at the media briefing. 

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It was recalled that half the world’s population has been under some form of lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19. While many are eager to see restrictions lifted, especially as numbers stabilize in some countries, we must remain patient and vigilant, said officials at the press briefing. “It may be a little bit longer that you have to remain at home,” said Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, Technical Lead of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme. Countries seeing their numbers stabilize should not believe the worst is over, “now is the time for vigilance,” said Michael J. Ryan, Chief Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme.

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To support countries in easing lockdown restrictions, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said WHO’s new strategy summarises what have been learned as far as the virus is concerned and charts the way forward. These six criteria for countries as they consider lifting restriction focus on making sure that firstly, transmission is controlled; secondly, that health system capacities are in place to detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact; thirdly, that outbreak risks are minimised in special settings like health facilities and nursing homes; fourthly, that preventive measures are in place in workplaces, schools and other places where it is essential for people to go; fifthly, that importation risks can be managed and  lastly; that communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to adjust to the “new norm”. WHO has also recommended that countries must strike a balance between measures that address the mortality caused by COVID-19, and by other diseases due to overwhelmed health systems, as well as the social economic impacts. As countries come out of lockdown situations, WHO officials also urged that increased capacity at health systems will also need to be maintained and hospitals must ensure that protective equipment are in place and intensive care beds are on standby for this is a time to be careful. 

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