WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

The premature lifting of restrictions on people’s movement to fight coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) could potentially result in “deadly resurgence” of the new pathogen, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Friday.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said countries with COVID-19 infections should not be in a hurry in lifting measures imposed to stop the further transmission of the highly-contagious disease.

Tedros said it would be a “dangerous” move to decide early in relaxing the restrictions.

“I know that some countries are already planning the transition out of stay-at-home restrictions. WHO wants to see restrictions lifted as much as anyone,” he said in a virtual press conference in Geneva, Switzerland. “At the same time, lifting restrictions too quickly could lead to a deadly resurgence.”

His warning came even after he noted that there had been a “welcome slowing” of the COVID-19 epidemic in hardest-hit European countries like Spain, Italy, Germany, and France.

Tedros said WHO is working with affected countries to form strategies for a gradual and safe easing of restrictions.

He, however, said that the lifting of restrictions should not be done too soon.

“The way down can be as dangerous as the way up, if not managed properly,” Tedros said.

Over 1.5 million COVID-19 infections have been recorded worldwide, according to the latest data from WHO.

Around 95,269 people globally have died due to COVID-19, WHO reported.

Tedros noted that while there is a decline in confirmed COVID-19 cases in other European nations, WHO noticed the “spread of the virus” in other countries like Africa.

“We are now seeing clusters of cases and community spread in more than 16 countries. We anticipate severe hardship for already overstretched health systems, particularly in rural areas, which normally lack the resources of those in cities,” he said.

Countries that seek to lift restriction should check if the transmission is controlled; sufficient public health and health medical services are available, and outbreak risk in special settings like long-term care facilities are minimized, Tedros said.

Tedros added that affected countries should also make sure that preventive measures in public spaces are in place; importation risks can be managed, and communities are fully aware and engaged in the transition.

“Every single person has a role to play in ending this pandemic,” he said. (PNA)