Posted: Monday, October 12, 2020. 5:36 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: As the world enters its tenth month in the fight against COVID-19, special envoy on the disease for the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. David Nabarro, has encouraged a “middle path” on fighting the disease, discouraging the use of lockdowns “as the primary means of control of the virus” according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
Dr. Nabarro told the Spectator magazine that “The only time we believe a lockdown in justified is to buy you time to reorganize, regroup, rebalance your resources; protect your health workers who are exhausted. But by and large, we’d rather not do it.”
He added that lockdown had a particular economic impact on small countries relying on tourism and a rise in poverty – as he put it, “making poor people an awful lot poorer.”
Dr. Nabarro told The Spectator the economic impact on small countries that rely on tourism and increased poverty levels are two major effects of shutting communities down.
A few days before the interview in an article titled “Reflections about the Middle Path,” he called for a balance between restriction and normal life, preferring the management of strict personal hygiene, effective contact tracing, and isolating when ill. “Lockdowns just freeze the virus … they do not lead to elimination,” he wrote.
The WHO’s own six-step plan for easing of restrictions cite the following: ensure the transmission is under control; make sure health systems can care for every case — including tracing and isolating; minimize risks in health facilities, including nursing homes; have preventative measures in workplaces, schools, and other essential places; manage the risk of the virus being imported in from another place, and fully educate the community on the new normal, and how they can protect themselves.
Some want to know whether the WHO has backflipped on its advice? Not necessarily.
The WHO has been advocating for contact tracing, hygiene, and isolation since the beginning of the pandemic, and in April its Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, spoke directly to the issue of lockdowns. He said while some countries may have been considering lockdowns, contact tracing was an essential measure all governments needed to have in place.
“We know that early case finding, testing, isolating, caring for every case, and tracing every contact is essential for stopping transmission,” he said. “As I have said many times, physically distancing restrictions are only part of the equation, and there are many other basic public health measures that need to be put in place.”
WHO spokesperson Dr. Margaret Harris, appearing on Australian television, reiterated, “It is not a backflip, it is not a change in advice. Right from the start, we have said what we’d really like to see is a strong tracking, tracing, the community hand-washing [and] mask-wearing, so that you don’t have to go into lockdown.
“A lot of countries have had to go to lockdown, but we say do all the other things to avoid going there because the economic and social costs are very high.”
As the number of cases in Belize rose in the first part of April, a national lockdown was instituted on Good Friday for 30 days, at which time the number of cases stabilized at 18.
Belize went nearly two months without another case, then the numbers began to rise again as persons were admitted back into the country and isolated. But then came a major spike at the end of July and August, connected to “border jumping” and spread in San Pedro Town and villages in central and southern Orange Walk District and other isolated areas of the country. Lockdowns were instituted in five Orange Walk villages from late July to the end of August and the rest of the country entered into a flexible state of emergency. As of September 4, that has ended but quarantine regulations continue to limit the opening of certain businesses and promotion of certain activities with significant penalties in place.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow has cited the WHO’s advice in being slow to initiate lockdown beyond those places previously specified, citing the troubling economic cost of the April shutdown. The economy contracted 23.3 percent in the second quarter and thousands are on some form of relief program, awaiting the bounce-back of tourism and other mainstays.
U.S. President Donald Trump, himself recovering from COVID-19, claimed some credit, writing, “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!”
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