The World Health Organisation has said countries should consider protecting human health first while making decisions on whether to lift lockdown restrictions or impose them.
The WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, made the recommendations on Monday during the virtual briefing in Geneva while updating journalists on the status of COVID-19 across the world.
Mr Ghebreyesus said “some countries are considering when they can lift these restrictions; others are considering whether and when to introduce them.”
“In both cases, these decisions must be based first and foremost on protecting human health, and guided by what we know about the virus and how it behaves, he said.
This advice came some hours before the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari extended the lockdown measures imposed on three states in the country.
Mr Buhari, on Monday evening, extended the lockdown order on Lagos, Ogun and FCT for an additional two weeks as a means of containing the spread of the disease in the country.
This, he said, would assist the health workers trace people who might have been exposed to the virus from a positive patient.
While some countries are considering how to ease restrictions, others are considering whether to introduce them especially many low and middle-income countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Mr Ghebreyesus said some countries and communities have now endured several weeks of social and economic restrictions.
Yet, some countries are considering when they can lift these restrictions; others are considering whether and when to introduce them.
“In both cases, these decisions must be based first and foremost on protecting human health, and guided by what we know about the virus and how it behaves,” he said.
He said countries with large poor populations are likely to practice the stay-at-home orders and other restrictions used in some high-income countries.
“Many poor people, migrants and refugees are already living in overcrowded conditions with few resources and little access to health care,” he said.
“How do you survive a lockdown when you depend on your daily labour to eat,?” He asked. “Since the beginning, this has been an area of intense focus for WHO.”
News reports from around the world describe how many people are in danger of being left without access to food.
Mr Ghebreyesus enjoined countries to ensure that where stay-at-home measures are used, they must not be at the expense of human rights.
“Each government must assess their situation while protecting all their citizens, and especially the most vulnerable. Every country should be implementing a comprehensive set of measures to slow down transmission and save lives, with the aim of reaching a steady state of low-level or no transmission,” he said.
He said countries must strike a balance between measures that address the mortality caused by COVID-19, and by other diseases due to overwhelmed health systems, as well as the social-economic impacts.
As the pandemic has spread, its public health and socioeconomic impacts have been profound, and have disproportionately affected the vulnerable. Many populations have already experienced a lack of access to routine, essential health services.
“Our global connectedness means the risk of re-introduction and resurgence of the disease will continue. Ultimately, the development and delivery of a safe and effective vaccine will be needed to fully interrupt transmission,” he said.