Need for caution as lockdowns ease - GulfToday

Need for caution as lockdowns ease

Britain Lockdown 1

Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

Many countries clearly seem to be in a mood to ease lockdowns, but extreme care should be taken to see to it that this process remains gradual as the pandemic still lurks all around with its deadly intentions.

Europe is witnessing an unwinding from the tough days.

Lockdown measures are finally eased in Spain’s two biggest cities Madrid and Barcelona, where people can now meet in groups of up to 10 people in their homes or on the terraces of bars and restaurants. Beaches also reopen in parts of the country after months-long closures. Spain is making progress on its staggered plan out of the confinement against the new coronavirus.

Roughly half of the population, including residents in the biggest cities, Madrid and Barcelona, are entering phase 1 on Monday, which allows social gatherings in limited numbers, restaurant and bar service with outdoor sitting and some cultural and sports activities.

Spain also says it will lift a 2-week mandatory confinement for all travelers arriving from overseas starting July 1.

Italy is reopening swimming pools and sports centres, Greece does the same with restaurants and cafes, while Ukrainians can again take the Metro in capital Kiev for the first time in 10 weeks.

Japan, which has been spared the worst of the pandemic, has lifted a nationwide state of emergency with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe saying “very stringent criteria” have been met. But government officials also rightly warn that caution is still necessary to prevent another wave.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh, on his part, has declared that the West Bank will reopen on Tuesday after a dramatic slowdown in the spread of the coronavirus.

The Palestinian Authority, which administers autonomous areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, imposed a strict lockdown in March.

While all such easing measures sound consoling, the persisting danger posed by the virus needs to be tackled head-on.

The infection has moved “like a bushfire”, as UN health agency head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus earlier mentioned, while warning that the early blood test studies consistently indicated that only between one and two people in 10, appeared to have come into contact with the disease, triggering an immune reaction shown by the existence of antibodies.

Even in the worst-affected regions, the proportion of the population with the tell-tale antibodies is no more than 20 per cent, and in most places, less than 10 per cent, Tedros had mentioned. In other words, the majority of the world’s population remains susceptible to this virus.No country has been spared in coming to grips with the infection. While some are still bracing for the worst, others have begun to ease lockdown measures.

It is also distressing that the pandemic risks unwinding decades of progress against maternal and child mortality, HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, noncommunicable diseases, mental health, polio, among other urgent health threats.

Countries need to proceed with caution. Countries that move too fast, without putting in place the public health architecture to detect and suppress transmission, run a real risk of handicapping their own recovery, as the World Health organisation insists.

Special measures are essential in high-density residential areas such as slums, and other areas without adequate water, sanitation or healthcare facilities.

WHO guidance stresses that transmission needs to be controlled while healthcare systems must be able to detect, test, isolate and treat every case, and trace contacts.

That precisely should be the goal.

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