WHO says ‘extreme vigilance’ needed in exit from lockdowns

May 12, 2020 - 8:42 AM
1944
An area is cordoned off to keep social distance during the reopening of stores as Belgium began easing lockdown restrictions following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Brussels, Belgium May 11, 2020. (Reuters/Yves Herman)

GENEVA — The 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 lockdowns,” Dr Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s emergencies programme, told an online news briefing, but he added that “extreme vigilance is required”.

“If the disease persists at a low level without the possibility to investigate clusters there’s always the possibility 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.

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.

Tedros said that Germany, South Korea and China all had systems in place to respond to any resurgence in cases.—Reporting by Emma Farge and Michael Shields; Writing by Alex Richardson; Editing by Gareth Jones