The World Health Organization on Monday called on countries to keep restrictions in place to rein in the coronavirus pandemic, and said that opening up societies without control over the infection would be a “recipe for disaster”.

At a media briefing, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that countries that are serious about opening up must also be equally serious about suppressing transmission of the virus. He added that this is not “an impossible balance”.

Tedros said the world health body was aware that people were getting tired of restrictions and wanted the situation to return to normalcy after eight months of the pandemic. “That’s what WHO wants too,” he said. “Stay-at-home orders and other restrictions are something that some countries felt they needed to do to take pressure off their health systems. But they have taken a heavy toll on livelihoods, economies and mental health. We want to see children returning to school and people returning to workplaces, but we want to see it done safe.”

The director-general said no country can “just pretend that the pandemic is over” and cited four essential points that everybody should focus on. This includes preventing “amplifying events” – as the virus thrives on clusters, protecting vulnerable groups and those who are most at risk, people taking steps individually to protect themselves and increased testing, isolation and care of patients.

“The more control countries have over the virus, the more they can open up,” Tedros said. “Opening up without having control is a recipe for disaster. It’s not one size fits all, it’s not all or nothing... Decisions about how and when to allow gatherings of people must be taken with a risk-based approach, in the local context.”

India’s tally of coronavirus infections surged to 36,91,166 on Tuesday and it is the third most affected country by the pandemic after the United States and Brazil. On Sunday, India reported 78,761 new cases, the world’s biggest, single-day tally. A complete lockdown in India was first imposed on March 24 in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. It has been relaxed considerably over the past four months and the Centre has given permission for many economic activities to resume.

Last week, the government relaxed more restrictions to avoid more economic damage and allowed the resumption of metro services from September 7 in a graded manner.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus has infected more than 2.54 crore people globally and killed over 8.50 lakh, according to the Johns Hopkins University’s tracker. Over 1.68 crore people across the world have recovered from the infection.

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