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Full lockdowns should be a 'very, very last resort' and can be avoided, WHO's Europe chief says
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Full lockdowns should be a 'very, very last resort' and can be avoided, WHO's Europe chief says

As Europe introduces more and more restrictive measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, full-scale lockdowns should be a "very, very last resort."

International

As Europe introduces more and more restrictive measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the leader of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) office in the region has said that full-scale lockdowns should be a “very, very last resort.”

“A proportional and targeted response is the way forward. Measures or tightening up in many countries in Europe ... are appropriate and necessary responses to what the data is telling us,” Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO’s regional director for Europe, said Thursday.

“It is never too late (to tighten measures) but of course, definitely, we are concerned. In general, this is the time to step up the restrictive measures ... with lockdowns as a very, very last resort. We know much better than in March what can, and needs, to be done.”

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Kluge cited models that suggested a far greater and generalized adherence to mask-wearing and strict controls on social gathering in both public and private spaces could save up to 281,000 lives by February 2021 across 53 countries that come under WHO Europe’s regional office.

“The pandemic won’t reverse its course on its own, but we will,” he said, praising moves by governments around Europe to tighten Covid-19 restrictions. “We need to be uncompromising,” he said as he called for a “systematic and generalized” adherence to the basic measures of mask-wearing and social distancing.

“These measures are meant to keep us all ahead of the curve and to flatten its course ... Any further escalation of measures would be the result of failure in complying with the preceding ones, it is therefore up to us to accept them while they are still relatively easy to follow,” he said.

Asked whether he is for or against nationwide lockdowns, he reiterated that the pandemic of today “is not the same as the pandemic of yesterday” both in terms of the transmission dynamic, but also in the ways that governments can tackle it.

In March, lockdown was “a shutdown,” he said, with no outings, schools shut and movement curtailed. But “today lockdown means a very different thing, it means a step-by-step escalation of proportionate, targeted and time-limited measures,” he said.

Any national lockdowns must consider direct risks and “collateral damage” associated with the pandemic, such as the mental health impact, gender-based domestic violence and the impact on students.