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Lockdowns alone will not work, warns WHO

By Ella Pickover, PA Health Correspondent

Lockdowns alone will not work, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

Health officials need to “go after the virus” in addition to stringent measures on social distancing and lockdowns, WHO said.

The global health body has previously said that these measures have given countries a chance to stop the spread of the virus by “finding, isolating, testing, treating and tracing” cases and the people they have contacted.

If steps are not taken, when lockdowns are lifted there could be a “resurgence” of the virus.

“Countries, if they are going to be able to move away from this approach, if they are having to lockdown or shutdown, if we are going to move away from that approach as a way of suppressing the virus, we have got to put in place the public health surveillance, the isolation, the quarantine, the case finding, the detection,” Dr Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies programme, told a press briefing in Geneva.

“We have got to be able to show that we can go after the virus because lockdowns alone will not work.”

“Unfortunately, in some situations they are the only measure that governments can actually take to slow down this virus. And that’s unfortunate but that is the reality.”

Meanwhile, the WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on countries to maintain essential health work.

He said: “The Covid-19 pandemic is straining health systems in many countries. The rapidly increasing demand on health facilities and health workers threatens to leave some health systems overstretched and unable to operate effectively.”

“Previous outbreaks have demonstrated that when health systems are overwhelmed, deaths due to vaccine-preventable and treatable conditions increase dramatically.”

“Even though we’re in the midst of a crisis, essential health services must continue.”

“Babies are still being born, vaccines must still be delivered, and people still need life-saving treatment for a range of other diseases.”