'This is not the time to be lax', says WHO's regional director

Governments must not let down their guard in the fight against coronavirus or it may come surging back, official warns.

The World Health Organization warned rushing to ease coronavirus restrictions will likely lead to a resurgence of the contagion as governments start rolling out plans to get economies up and running again.

“This is not the time to be lax. Instead we need to ready ourselves for a new way of living for the foreseeable future,” said Dr Takeshi Kasai, the WHO regional director for the Western Pacific on Tuesday. 


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He said governments must remain vigilant to stop the spread of the virus and the lifting of lockdowns and other social distancing measures must be done gradually and strike the right balance between keeping people healthy and allowing economies to function.

“As we move forward in this difficult time, our lives, our health system and approach to stopping transmission must continue to adapt and evolve along with the epidemic, at least until a vaccine or very effective treatment is found,” Kasai said. 

“This process will need to become our new normal,” he added.

Countries with limited resources are a priority, such as Pacific Island nations, Kasai said, as they have to ship samples to other countries for diagnoses, and transportation restrictions are making that more difficult.

The WHO Western Pacific region is home to almost 1.9 billion people across 37 countries. The focus of the epidemic is now on Europe, however, the organisation expects it to shift to other regions.

‘Worst ahead of us’ 

On Monday, the WHO chief also warned the worst of the coronavirus pandemic has yet to come.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva “the worst is yet ahead of us” – but did not specify in what ways the crisis could get worse.

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