WHO: No country can just pretend the pandemic is over

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The World Health Organization on Monday urged countries to continue implementing safety measures to control the spread of the coronavirus, such as limiting public gatherings and protecting vulnerable groups as they try to reopen businesses and services.

“The more control countries have over the virus, the more they can open up. Opening up without having control is a recipe for disaster,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a virtual news briefing from the United Nations health agency’s Geneva headquarters. “No country can just pretend the pandemic is over.”

Tedros outlined “four essential things that all countries, communities and individuals must focus on to take control.” He said countries should “prevent amplifying events,” which he said many countries have linked to large gatherings at stadiums, nightclubs and places of worship. He added that countries and people can find “creative ways” to be social.

He added that countries should prevent deaths by protecting vulnerable people, including older people, people with underlying conditions and essential workers. This will help save lives and alleviate the burden on countries’ health systems, he said.

Tedros also said “individuals must play their part” by wearing masks, social distancing and washing their hands frequently. He added that governments can avoid stay-at-home orders by implementing targeted responses to outbreaks through testing, contact tracing and isolating.

“If countries are serious about opening up, they must be serious about suppressing transmission and saving lives,” he said. “This may seem like an impossible balance, but it’s not. It can be done and it has been done.”

Tedros added that the WHO recently published guidance on how hotels, cargo ships and fishing vessels can safely resume operations as “part of our commitment to supporting every sector to reopen as safely as possible.”

WHO officials said the so-called new normal will include at least some mitigation measures, such as social distancing and mask wearing. The organization has previously said that such measures will likely need to be followed in many countries even after a vaccine is eventually brought to market.

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