COVID-19: Lockdowns Have Saved Lives - WHO

As of today, the number of people infected with the disease globally surpassed the 4 million mark. However according to WHO the numbers could have been higher than is currently reported without lockdowns. WHO modelling figures in March predicted that Uganda would have over 16,000 confirmed cases by May 1,2020
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus,Director General World Health Organisation

Lockdowns instituted by countries around the world have been attributed as the main reason for the slow spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), eventually saving lives according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

As of today, the number of people infected with the disease globally surpassed the 4 million mark with over 284,000 deaths. However, according to WHO, cases would have been higher than is currently reported without lockdowns.

Uganda got its first case of COVID-19 on March 21st, 2020. By that time the country was on a partial lockdown. WHO modelling figures released before the lockdown was instituted and predicted that by May 1, 2020 Uganda would have over 16,000 confirmed cases and 85 deaths. After a nationwide lockdown, Uganda has a total of 114 confirmed cases and no deaths.

While addressing the virtual weekly press briefing, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of WHO said that lockdowns have proved to be a success that have saved lives but affected economies.

"The good news is that there has been a great deal of success in slowing the virus and ultimately saving lives. However, such strong measures have come at a cost and we recognize the serious socio-economic impact of the lockdowns, which have had a detrimental effect on many people‚Äôs live," said Dr Ghebreyesus.

To reawaken economies, Dr Ghebreyesus is urging countries to lift lockdowns but cautions that if not properly done, this could lead to resurgence of cases. To avoid cases from going up after lockdowns are lifted, WHO is advising countries to lift lockdowns slowly.

"Over the weekend we saw signs of the challenges that may lie ahead where countries that have been with no or low numbers begun reporting cases after lockdowns were lifted. In the Republic of Korea, bars and clubs were shut as a confirmed case led to many contacts being traced. In Wuhan, China, the first cluster of cases since their lockdown was lifted was identified.  Germany has also reported an increase in cases since an easing of restrictions," explained Dr Ghebreyesus.

He suggests that all countries that have lockdowns ensure that they have the epidemic under control and that the health system can cope well with high numbers during a resurgence. Counties are also being asked to make sure that the public health surveillance system is strong and able to manage new cases and detect their contacts.

Dr Ghebreyesus says that even when countries report low cases during a lockdown, its important to remember that many people are still susceptible to getting the disease.

"Early serological studies reflect that a relatively low percentage of the population has antibodies to COVID-19, which means most of the population is still susceptible to the virus. Public health measures need to remain in place to deal with the challenge of lifting lockdowns," he said.

Public health measures like keeping a distance of atleast of one meter from someone, avoiding gatherings or crowds, sneezing and coughing in the elbow and washing hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol based hand sanitizers are recommended by WHO.