WHO Europe Released Criteria for Easing Quarantine Restrictions
The WHO Regional Office for Europe (WHO Europe) recently released a statement about transitioning to the “new normal” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking from Copenhagen in Denmark, Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, regional director of WHO Europe, stressed that any lifting of restrictions in the 53 countries in the region “...must be guided by public health principles”
With input from the European Strategic Advisory Group on COVID-19 and various directors general for health, the agency released its six-point criteria for easing restrictions in Europe, saying that this must ensure:
1| That evidence shows COVID-19 transmission is controlled;
2| That public health and health system capacities including hospitals are in place to identify, isolate, test, trace contacts, and quarantine them;
3| That outbreak risks are minimized in high-vulnerability settings—particularly in elderly homes, mental health facilities, and people residing in crowded places;
4| That workplace preventive measures are established—with physical distancing, handwashing facilities, respiratory etiquette in place;
5| That importation risks can be managed; and
6| That communities have a voice and are engaged in the transition.
“My single over-riding message? If you cannot ensure these criteria are in place, before easing restrictions, please re-think,” said Kluge.
Europe Remains in the Middle of the Storm
COVID-19 cases and deaths have seen a decline in Spain, Italy, Germany, France, and Switzerland, but Kluge notes that Europe remains “in the midst of the storm,” with the coming weeks becoming more critical. WHO’s situation report from April 19 lists 1,122,189 confirmed cases and 100,938 deaths for the region.
Germany, which has effectively contained the pandemic thanks to mass testing and lockdown measures, is easing restrictions by allowing small shops, including bookstores and car dealerships, to open on Monday and restarting schools on May 4. Strict safety measures such as social distancing and wearing of masks will still be enforced, however.
In the return to normalcy, Kluge does not discount non-health factors, as well, saying that the transition must be guided by “economic and societal considerations.” He said, “Ultimately, the behavior of each of us will determine the behavior of the virus. This will take perseverance and patience, there is no fast-track back to normal.”
The Philippines Mulls State of Lockdown
In the country, President Rodrigo Duterte is reportedly meeting with health experts to discuss the status of extended community quarantine. The Luzon lockdown, which started on March 16, has been extended until the end of April.
Recent reports show some Filipinos disregarding the lockdown by shopping in crowded markets and engaging in boxing and bingo. As of April 19, the Philippines tallies 6,259 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 409 deaths and 572 recoveries.
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