When a senior WHO official asked to stop using lockdowns as the main method of controlling the coronavirus, many said the organization had backed down. But the thing is a little more complicated
“We at the World Health Organization do not advocate confinement as the main means of controlling this virus.”
When WHO’s special envoy for covid-19, Dr. David nabarro, was expressed thus in an interview with the British magazine The Spectator, surely he did not imagine the storm that his words would produce.
“Confinements only have one consequence that one should never, never underestimate, and that is that they make the poor much poorer,” the senior official also said during the interview, published over the weekend.
And, shortly after, numerous media and personalities began to ensure that WHO had backed down in his support for the confinements, with the President of the United States, Donald Trump, even going so far as to affirm that the organization had agreed with him.
The World Health Organization just admitted that I was right. Lockdowns are killing countries all over the world. The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself. Open up your states, Democrat governors. Open up New York. A long battle, but they finally did the right thing!
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 12, 2020
“The World Health Organization has just admitted that it was right. Lockdowns are killing countries around the world. The cure cannot be worse than the problem (…). A long battle, but they finally did the right thing“Trump said Monday through his Twitter account.
Although as numerous people immediately pointed out to the American president, he also via Twitter, in his response Nabarro was clear in indicating that the problem was to use confinements as “the main means of control.”
And as WHO spokeswoman Margaret Ann Harris stressed to BBC Mundo, in reality that has always been the position of the organization, which has never stopped considering confinements as “One more weapon in the arsenal”.
“What we’ve always said is that lockdowns can help buy some timeespecially if there is abundant community transmission, ”Harris explained.
“One can find a situation where transmission is intense and, for different reasons, not all those affected can be identified or traced. And, in those cases, maybe you have to put the brakes on what people call confinement, “he told BBC Mundo.
“But our position is that then we would like to see governments and communities continuously do all other things that can help to slow down the transmission of the virus, “insisted the WHO spokeswoman.
At the individual level andThese “things” include hand washing, physical distancing – and the use of masks, when that is not possible – as well as avoiding close contacts, crowds and poorly ventilated spaces.
“While at the government level we would like to see better testing and monitoring systems, that they guarantee that all the cases and all the contacts of the infected people are really identified, and that they guarantee that all those people are self-isolating for the necessary time ”, elaborated Harris.
“If all this is done – and there are many countries that have done it very well – one reduces transmission and can keep society running,” he said.
All those points they were also made by Nabarro during his interview, in which he also recognized that confinements could be justified “to buy time, reorganize, regroup, redistribute resources and protect health personnel.”
“We really call on world leaders to stop using lockdowns as their primary method of control. Develop better systems to do it. Work together and learn from each other ”, he also asked in his talk with The Spectator.
And, for Harris that last point is the most important of the facts by the WHO special envoy for covid-19.
“Dr. Nabarro was emphasizing, or commenting, that in some places some governments were perhaps not focusing on the other measures and were jumping directly into the confinements and warning that this is not the way,” Harris told BBC Mundo .
“Because in order for us as the human race to be able to live safely while the virus is circulating, we have to take all these other measures and do it consistently“He added.
In fact, for the WHO spokesperson, many measures and restrictions should continue to be implemented even after a vaccine is available, to guarantee the safety of those who are not yet protected by it.
And the spokesperson also stressed that, in the current circumstances, the lack of confinement it should not be construed as a return to normalcy.
“That has been a common mistake. Because people have been very good at holding the restrictions, but then when the confinement is lifted, it’s like they got out of jail and they say: “Wow, now we’re going to get even,” he told BBC Mundo.
“But that’s not how it works with this virus,” he recalled.