The six WHO requirements Australia must meet before lifting coronavirus restrictions

The World Health Organisation chief has warned COVID-19 restrictions must not be lifted “all at once” and stressed the novel coronavirus is 10 times deadlier than swine flu.

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus addressed the media in Geneva on Monday (local time), and warned countries who have hinted towards lifting restrictions, such as Australia, must meet a strict set of criteria before easing measures can be considered.

“While COVID-19 accelerates very fast, it decelerates much more slowly,” he explained.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organisation, speaks during a news conference on updates regarding on the novel coronavirus COVID-19 in Geneva.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed easing of restrictions must be a slow process and can only be done once a country is ready. Source: AP

“That means control measures must be lifted slowly and with control. It cannot happen all at once.

“Control measures can only be lifted if the right public health measures are in place, including significant capacity for contact tracing.”

Dr Tedros outlined six requirements countries must adhere to if they are to begin lifting restrictions:

  1. Community transmission is controlled;

  2. Health system capacities are in place to detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact;

  3. Outbreak risks are minimised in special settings like health facilities and nursing homes;

  4. Preventive measures are in place in workplaces, schools and other places where it’s essential for people to go;

  5. Importation risks can be managed;

  6. Communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to adjust to the “new norm”.

The director-general said countries should ideally be aiming for extremely low, if not no transmission in the country.

In recent days, Australia has recorded less than 100 cases nationally, prompting NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt to hint last week that eased restrictions may come sooner rather than later.

On Monday, Mr Hunt outlined the country’s own three key elements Australia must meet to lift the restrictions.

Two people walk across the street in Sydney's CBD pictured on the left. A 'beach closed' sign is seen in Victoria.
Restrictions in Australia have had lasting effects socially and economically. Source: AAP

Dr Tedros said countries must now “strike a balance” between measures that reduce deaths and allowing a slow return to social and economic norm.

“As the pandemic has spread, its public health and socioeconomic impacts have been profound,” he said.

The director-general warned the virus’s ability to spread rapidly must be remembered during all decision-making.

“We know that COVID-19 spreads fast and we know that it is deadly – 10 times deadlier than the 2009 flu pandemic,” Dr Tedros said.

In Australia, where as of Monday morning there were 6366 cases nationally and 61 deaths, it is predicted the unemployment rate will reach 10 per cent – the highest in nearly three decades.

Globally, coronavirus cases near two million with more than 118,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins data.

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