WHO Cautions Nations Against Dropping COVID Restrictions

As several European nations scale back or drop COVID-19 restrictions altogether, the World Health Organization (WHO) is urging caution as the coronavirus remains.

Denmark lifted most of its COVID-19 restrictions Tuesday, including the use of masks in public places or requiring proof of vaccination to enter public venues, with government officials saying they no longer consider COVID-19 a “socially critical disease.” France, Britain and other European nations are following suit.

At a briefing Tuesday at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it is premature for any country either to surrender, or to declare victory over the pandemic.  

Tedros said because of the omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19, it remains highly transmissible and deadly. He said that in the 10 weeks since the omicron variant was identified, almost 90 million cases have been reported, more than in all of 2020. And he said the WHO is now starting to see a very worrying increase in deaths, in most regions of the world.

At same briefing, WHO COVID lead Maria Van Kerkhove urged nations to be cautious about lifting restrictions “all at once.” She suggested a more gradual process because many countries have not yet gone through the peak of their omicron surges, and others have low levels of vaccination coverage, especially among vulnerable populations.  

WHO Emergencies Program chief Mike Ryan agreed with the call for a cautious approach, and noted all countries are not in the same place regarding the pandemic. He said countries that are making decisions to open more broadly also need to be sure they have the capacity to close back down just as quickly.

Ryan said, “It is important that we keep communities informed and maybe ensure that communities understand that measures may have to be reintroduced,” should COVID-19 cases make a rebound.

Some information for this report came from the Associated Press.

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