As countries like the U.S. are anxious to get their economies back to normal, the World Health Organization (WHO) has outlined six conditions for lifting lockdowns to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19.
WHO released the guidelines as part of a strategic plan for handling the deadly global pandemic.
“This pandemic is much more than a health crisis,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “It requires a whole-of-government and whole-of-society response.”
According to the strategic plan, the following conditions must be met in order to safely lift shelter-in-place orders:
- Transmission of the virus must be limited to “sporadic cases and clusters of cases, all from known contacts or importations.”
- Health authorities must detect and handle new cases coming in from travelers.
- Health experts should be able to detect and test all suspected cases, and all confirmed cases need to be effectively isolated. Plus, all close contacts must be traced and quarantined for 14 days.
- Places with vulnerable populations, like nursing homes, must have their risk of infection minimized.
- Workplaces must put preventive measures in place, allowing for physical distancing and hand-washing.
- Communities need to understand that “behavioral prevention measures must be maintained” and remain committed to stopping the transmission of disease.
Dr. Tedros said the guidelines were “based on the evidence the world has accumulated in the past three months about how COVID-19 spreads, the severity of disease it causes, how to treat it, and how to stop it.”
“We’re all in this together, and we will only succeed together,” he continued.
WHO cautioned that lifting lockdowns prematurely could lead to a deadly resurgence in outbreaks. At least 82 countries are under some form of lockdown measures, according to UNICEF, with millions staying at home in the U.S. alone.
President Donald Trump has said he wants to start “reopening” parts of the U.S. On Tuesday, Trump announced he was creating councils mostly made up of business leaders to advise when to reopen the country.
The White House has also drafted a plan to lift shelter-in-place rules, according to The Washington Post.
The White House plan reportedly involves increasing the manufacturing of testing kits and personal protective equipment, as well as adding more emergency funding. The road map doesn’t provide specific dates for when certain states would be able to reopen daycares, summer camps, and other facilities, but it wouldn’t be before May 15, according to the report.
But public health experts warn the U.S. isn’t ready to begin lifting its lockdowns.
Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious diseases expert, tweeted that before the U.S. can ease its measures, states need to increase testing, decrease the number of cases, use contact tracing to track any outbreaks that pop up, and — only then — slowly lift public health restrictions.
So far, she wrote, the U.S. is only at step one.
For the latest updates on the novel coronavirus outbreak, visit the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 page.
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