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Tuesday Apr 21 2020
By
Reuters

Lifting of coronavirus lockdowns must be gradual, says WHO

By
Reuters
Photo: Reuters

The World Health Organisation on Tuesday warned that any lifting of lockdowns to contain the spread of the coronavirus must be gradual, and if restrictions were to be relaxed too soon, there would be a resurgence of infections.

Lockdown measures have proved effective, and people must be ready for a new way of living to allow society to function while the coronavirus is being kept in check, said Takeshi Kasai, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific.

We must adapt our lives and health systems along with the epidemic, Kasai told an online press conference.

Read also: UN members demand 'equitable' access to future COVID-19 vaccines

“At least until a vaccine, or a very effective treatment, is found, this process will need to become our new normal.”

Governments considering lifting lockdown measures should do so carefully and in stages, and continue to monitor the epidemic situation, he said. So long as the coronavirus is circulating, no country is safe from a potentially overwhelming outbreak, he said.

“Individuals and society need to be ready for a new way of living,” he said.

While the Western Pacific has in recent weeks been much less hard hit by the epidemic than the United States or Europe, there has been an increase in cases in Japan and Singapore, among other countries.

Kasai also warned that the epidemic must not disrupt vaccination programmes against other diseases like polio, measles and rubella. Otherwise the Western Pacific could face a new crisis when health systems are already strained, he said.

'Currently not possible to determine precise source of virus'

Separately, Kasai said that it is not possible to determine the precise source of the new coronavirus at this stage.

As of now, no conclusions could be made, he said. "However, the available evidence suggests an animal origin."

US President Donald Trump said last week his government is trying to determine whether the coronavirus emanated from a lab in Wuhan in central China.