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WHO warns of spike in Covid-19 cases if countries ease lockdowns

Tuesday May 26 2020
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A police officer at a road block in Nairobi Eastleigh where there is restriction of movement die to Covid-19. Countries where coronavirus infections are declining could still face an “immediate second peak” if they let up too soon on measures meant to halt the outbreak, WHO has warned. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Countries where coronavirus infections are declining could still face an “immediate second peak” if they let up too soon on measures meant to halt the outbreak, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned Monday.

With Covid-19 outbreaks at different stages around the world, governments are making changes to their restrictions.

In some places like Europe, lockdowns are being eased, with varied scopes of relaxations.

For instance, in Poland, children can go to school, Greece is opening up its many islands to travellers from the mainland, but not to foreign tourists, Italy is reopening gyms and swimming pools but with strict hygiene and social distancing rules, Spain is reopening its parks, museums and other cultural centres under the country's four-phase easing of restrictions, and the beer-loving Czech Republic – a country with the highest per capita beer consumption in the world – opened its pubs, albeit with social distancing and mask-wearing indoors.

But in other places like in the UK, the lockdowns put in place are being kept in place while elsewhere, they are being strengthened.

African countries have also followed suit with South Africa easing the restriction in five-phases.

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CURFEW

In Kenya, the dusk-to-dawn curfew and containment measures put in place by the government to curb the spread of Covid-19 could soon be lifted once President Uhuru Kenyatta’s plan to reopen the country is actualised.

Following the President’s directive, committees charged with various aspects of the pandemic response started meeting on Sunday to come up with plans for reopening the country’s economic and social sectors.

All these come at a time when WHO has warned that the world is still in the middle of the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak.

WHO emergencies head, Dr Mike Ryan, told an online briefing on Monday that while cases are declining in many countries, they are still increasing in central and South America, South Asia and Africa.

NO CLEAR PICTURE

Health experts in Kenya have disputed the government’s decision, saying the country still does not have a clear picture of the effect of the virus in the community.

According to Dr Lukoye Atwoli, an associate professor of psychiatry at Moi University’s School of Medicine, there are no magic bullets and only good old-fashioned public health measures will keep people as safe as is possible in these troubled times.

“Other than educational institutions and the entertainment sector, I haven’t seen serious enough restrictions to have the socio-economic effects that are being claimed,” argued Prof Atwoli.

Dr Ryan said epidemics often come in waves, which means that outbreaks could come back later this year in places where the first wave has subsided. There is also a chance that infection rates could rise again more quickly if measures to halt the first wave are lifted too soon.

“When we speak about a second wave, classically what we often mean is that there will be a first wave of the disease by itself, and then it recurs months later and that may be a reality for many countries in a number of months’ time,” he said.

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