With more than a billion new people on lockdown this week, the World Health Organization (WHO) had a simple request: don’t waste this opportunity.
Physical distancing measures such as lockdowns only slow the virus’ spread, WHO officials warned. They can’t eradicate it. Cancelled events, closed schools and stay-at-home orders buy countries time to develop targeted measures to attack the virus.
Lockdowns have created a second window of opportunity, said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. But as reported cases climbed above 450,000 this week, that window is closing.
To that end, the Director-General outlined six steps that any country can take, regardless of its size or scenario, to fight the virus.
1. Expand, train and deploy your public health force.
2. Implement a system to find every suspected case.
3. Ramp up testing capacity and availability.
4. Identify and adapt key facilities you will use to treat and isolate patients.
5. Develop a clear plan to quarantine contacts.
6. Refocus the whole of government on suppression and containing COVID-19.
A targeted approach can avoid an endless cycle of lockdowns. These measures are the best way to suppress and stop transmission, so that when restrictions are lifted, the coronavirus doesn’t resurge, said the Director General. The last thing any country needs is to open schools and businesses, only to be forced to close them again because of a resurgence.
Additionally, no one solution is always a fit for every area in a country. China, officials pointed out, applied different lockdown measures in different areas of the country based on the virus’ spread. Later, it gradually lifted restrictions.
Editorial Disclaimer: information published during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic may be updated frequently to reflect the dynamic nature of current understanding.