Lifting coronavirus restrictions too early would spark a “deadly resurgence” across the globe, the World Health Organisation warned.
Countries which come out of lockdown prematurely risk a second ruinous wave just as catastrophic as the first, the body cautioned.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of WHO, spoke out as countries across the world – including the UK, Italy, Spain and the US – consider ways in which they could potentially ease shutdowns which are now turning the health crisis into an economic one.
“I know that some countries are already planning the transition out of stay-at-home restrictions,” he said from a virtual press conference in Geneva, Switzerland. “WHO wants to see restrictions lifted as much as anyone.
“At the same time, lifting restrictions too quickly could lead to a deadly resurgence. The way down can be as dangerous as the way up if not managed properly.”
The microbiologist added that the body was working with affected countries on potential strategies for returning to some semblance of normality once the peak of the pandemic passed.
He also listed six factors that must be considered before lockdowns are eased: transmission under control; health services able to cope; risks in care homes minimised; preventative measures introduced in workplaces and schools; virus importation risks managed; and communities made aware of how to reduce future transmissions.
The global death toll from coronavirus has now risen above 100,000 with more than 1.6 million people reported infected in total.
Although Mr Tedros welcomed signs the contagion was slowing in Europe, he also warned of an “alarming acceleration” elsewhere, saying that the virus was now emerging in rural Africa.
“We anticipate severe hardship for already overstretched health systems, particularly in rural areas, which normally lack the resources of those in cities,” he said.