Countries that want to lift coronavirus restrictions must meet a row of conditions to prevent another surge of infections, UN health chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Thursday.
In his weekly address to Geneva-based diplomats, Tedros said that easing social and economic curbs “must be done extremely carefully.”
“If done too quickly, we risk a resurgence that could be even worse than our present situation,” he warned.
First of all, governments must ensure that the spread of the novel coronavirus is under control.
According to new WHO guidelines, this means that health authorities must know the origin of every single case and cluster of infections.
National health systems must also be able to find, test, isolate and treat every new case, and all recent social contacts of every infected person must be tracked down.
In addition, Tedros stressed that countries that want to ease their curbs must minimise infection risks in hot spot settings such as hospitals and nursing homes.
As a fourth condition, Tedros said that preventive measures must be in place in workplaces, schools and other essential locations.
This includes physical distancing, hygiene etiquette and, possibly, temperature measurements, according to the new WHO guidelines.
Countries must also manage the risk of importing new cases from abroad, by detecting infected travellers, and by quarantining those who arrive from hot spot countries.
Lastly, Tedros said it is important that “communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to adjust to the ‘new norm’” of behaving in ways that prevent new infections.