The World Health Organization on Wednesday came out against sending people back to work and school in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that ending social distancing measures too soon could worsen the ongoing outbreak.
“These measures are the best way to suppress and stop transmission, so that when restrictions are lifted, the coronavirus doesn’t resurge,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general, said at a news conference on Wednesday.
“The last thing any country needs is to open schools and businesses, only to be forced to close them again because of a resurgence.”
Ghebreyesus’ comments come as Donald Trump pushes to lift social distancing measures in the United States by Easter, a little more than two weeks away. Public health experts have warned repeatedly that it is far too early to reopen the country and that doing so would likely worsen spread of the virus.
Trump however has argued that the human toll from the outbreak won’t be as bad as its impacts on the economy, if businesses are forced to remain closed.
Several GOP lawmakers, as well as right-wing personalities, have adopted that language, going as far as suggesting elderly people more at risk of contracting COVID-19 disease should sacrifice their lives for the sake of the economy.
Right-wing media personality Glenn Beck said this week, “Even if we all get sick, I would rather die than kill the country.”
Ghebreyesus did not mention Trump or the United States specifically in his remarks on Wednesday.
The WHO director did note that countries needed to protect the elderly who were at high risk of being impacted by the virus.
“We need to work together to protect older people from the coronavirus, and to ensure their needs are being met — for food, fuel, prescription medication, and human interaction,” he said.
So far, it’s unclear whether Trump will officially call for an end of social distancing measures by Easter.
Ghebreyesus issued a dire warning on Wednesday, stating that if social distancing measures are lifted too soon, more lives will be lost.
“Already we have lost more than 16,000 lives. We know we will lose more — how many more will be determined by the decisions we make and the actions we take,” Ghebreyesus said.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.