The World Health Organisation on Wednesday urged countries that have locked down their populations to prevent the spread of the coronavirus to find new cases and do everything they can to “suppress and stop” the transmission of Covid-19.
India began a 21-day lockdown on Wednesday, with the aim to break the chain of infection. The lockdown will be in effect till April 14. There are over 600 cases of coronavirus in the country. Of these, 10 people have died.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said a lockdown on its own will not be enough to eradicate the coronavirus pandemic from the world. “Asking people to stay at home and shutting down population movement is buying time and reducing the pressure on health systems,” he said at a news conference in Geneva. “But on their own, these measures will not extinguish epidemics.”
He added: “The point of these actions is to enable the more precise and targeted measures that are needed to stop transmission and save lives. We call on all countries who have introduced so-called ‘lockdown’ measures to use this time to attack the coronavirus.”
Tedros said lockdowns were “a second window of opportunity” and urged countries to implement a system to find every suspected coronavirus case at the community level, while ramping up the production, capacity and availability of testing kits. “Identify, adapt and equip facilities you will use to treat and isolate patients,” he added. “Develop a clear plan and process to quarantine contacts, refocus the whole of government on suppressing and controlling.”
He said these measures were the best way to suppress and stop the chain of transmission to ensure the virus does not resurge once restrictions are lifted. “The last thing any country needs is to open schools and businesses, only to be forced to close them again because of a resurgence,” Tedros said. “Aggressive measures to find, isolate, test, treat and trace are not only the best and fastest way out of extreme social and economic restrictions – they’re also the best way to prevent them.”
On India, Tedros appreciated the country taking early measures, Reuters reported. “This will help you to suppress and control it as soon as possible before it gets serious,” he said. “So it’s very important, like what is happening now in India which we really commend to cut it from the bud, when you only have 606 cases.”