By Carolyn Crist
April 15, 2020 - Countries should evaluate and meet six criteria before they lift shelter-in-place restrictions for COVID-19, World Health Organization officials said during a press briefing on Monday.
Decisions should be based on "protecting human health" and the scientific knowledge about how the coronavirus is transmitted, said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director general.
"We are all learning," he said. "We can only act on what we know."
WHO will issue an updated strategy document on Tuesday. During the briefing, Tedros outlined six criteria to lift restrictions:
- Transmission is controlled.
- Health system capacity is in place to detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact.
- Outbreak risks are minimized in special settings, such as nursing homes.
- Preventive measures are in place in workplaces, schools and essential businesses.
- Managing the risk of people bringing the virus in from other countries.
- Communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to adjust to the new normal.
Countries should put in place comprehensive measures to slow transmission, he added. The risk of additional outbreaks remains high due to global connectivity.
"Tackling this disease together is our only option," Tedros said. "The way forward is solidarity."
As the number of new cases of COVID-19 begins to plateau in the United States, national and state leaders have discussed when to "reopen" the country and have pointed to May 1 as a target date. President Donald Trump said last week that he plans to announce a new task force on Tuesday to determine the reopening strategy. European countries that have seen a peak in cases and hospitalizations are discussing the next moves as well.
"Now is the time for vigilance. Now is the time to double down. Now is the time to be very, very careful," Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, said during the briefing. "But that does not mean we cannot begin to create an exit strategy."
Lockdowns must be replaced with some type of strategy, which will "change behaviors for the foreseeable future," he added. This includes personal hygiene and physical distancing measures. In the meantime, countries must increase efforts to test, quarantine, treat and trace the virus.
"At the moment, everybody is suffering because everyone has to be separated," Ryan said. "The only way to get out of this is to find the virus."