WHO says ‘extreme vigilance’ needed in exit from lockdowns

An elderly couple wearing face masks walks on a sidewalk marked for pedestrians to keep social distance, during the hours in which the elderly are allowed to be outdoors, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Barcelona, Spain, May 11, 2020. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

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WHO says ‘extreme vigilance’ needed in exit from lockdownsThe World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday that “extreme vigilance” was needed as countries begin to exit from lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, amid global concerns about a second wave of infections.

Germany earlier reported an acceleration in new coronavirus infections after it took early steps to ease its lockdown. South Korea, another country that had succeeded in limiting virus infections, has seen a new outbreak in nightclubs.

“Now we are seeing some hope as many countries exit these so-called lockdowns,” Dr. Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s emergencies program, told an online news briefing. But he added that “extreme vigilance is required.”

“If the disease persists at a low level without the capacity to investigate clusters, there’s always the risk that the virus takes off again,” he said.

Governments around the world are struggling with the question of how to reopen their economies while still containing COVID-19, the lung disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Ryan said he was hopeful that Germany and South Korea would be able to suppress new clusters and praised their surveillance, which he said was key to avoiding large second waves.

“It’s really important that we hold up examples of countries who are willing to open their eyes and willing to keep their eyes open,” he said. 

In contrast, he said other countries, without naming them, were “trying to drive through this blindly.”

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the same briefing that lifting restrictions was “complex and difficult” and that the “slow, steady lifting of lockdowns” was key to protecting lives and livelihoods.

Tedros said that Germany, South Korea and China, which has reported a new cluster in its original epicenter, Wuhan, all had systems in place to respond to any resurgence in cases.

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