Foreign Desk Report
GENEVA: The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday that “extreme vigilance” was needed as countries begin to exit from lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, amid global concerns about a second wave of infections.
Germany earlier reported an acceleration in new coronavirus infections after it took early steps to ease its lockdown. South Korea, another country that had succeeded in limiting virus infections, has seen a new outbreak in nightclubs. “Now we are seeing some hope as many countries exit these lockdowns,” Dr Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s emergencies programme, told an online news briefing, but he added that “extreme vigilance is required”.
“If the disease persists at a low level without the possibility to investigate clusters there’s always the possibility that the virus takes off again,” he said. Governments around the world are struggling with the question of how to reopen their economies while still containing COVID-19, the lung disease caused by the new coronavirus.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the same briefing that lifting restrictions was “complex and difficult” and that the “slow, steady lifting of lockdowns” was key. Tedros said that Germany, South Korea and China all had systems in place to respond to any resurgence in cases.
Earlier, Millions of people in France and Spain counted down to the relaxation of strict coronavirus lockdowns on Monday, hopes of release from their homes laced with fears of a second wave of a pandemic that has killed over 280,000 worldwide and wrought economic disaster.
In France, people will be able to walk outside for the first time in nearly eight weeks without filling in a permit, teachers will start to return to schools, and some shops will reopen. Bars, restaurants, theatres and cinemas will however remain closed. Spaniards outside of urban hotspots such as Madrid and Barcelona — which remain under lockdown — eagerly made plans to meet friends and family in bars and restaurants that have outdoor spaces. But the anticipation of regained freedom was tinged by concern.
With millions out of work and economies flatlining including in the United States, where 20 million lost their jobs in April governments are desperate to reopen, but most are choosing a gradual approach. European officials have been emboldened by declining death rates France s toll of 70 on Sunday was its lowest since early April and Spain s daily fatalities have dropped below 200.