Lockdowns have been used to control the coronavirus around the world. Now a WHO official has questioned the success of them.
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The World Health Organisation has backflipped on its original COVID-19 stance after calling for world leaders to stop locking down their countries and economies.
Dr. David Nabarro from the WHO appealed to world leaders yesterday, telling them to stop “using lockdowns as your primary control method” of the coronavirus.
He also claimed that the only thing lockdowns achieved was poverty – with no mention of the potential lives saved.
“Lockdowns just have one consequence that you must never ever belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer,” he said.
“The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to reorganise, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted, but by and large, we’d rather not do it.”
Dr Nabarro’s main criticism of lockdowns involved the global impact, explaining how poorer economies that had been indirectly affected.
“Just look at what’s happened to the tourism industry in the Caribbean, for example, or in the Pacific because people aren’t taking their holidays,” he said.
“Look what’s happened to smallholder farmers all over the world. … Look what’s happening to poverty levels. It seems that we may well have a doubling of world poverty by next year. We may well have at least a doubling of child malnutrition.”
Melbourne’s lockdown has been hailed as one of the strictest and longest in the world. In Spain’s lockdown in March, people weren’t allowed to leave the house unless it was to walk their pet. In China, authorities welded doors shut to stop people from leaving their homes. The WHO thinks these steps were largely unnecessary.
Instead, Dr Nabarro is advocating for a new approach to containing the virus.
“And so, we really do appeal to all world leaders: stop using lockdown as your primary control method. Develop better systems for doing it. Work together and learn from each other.”
His message is timely. In a world first, a number of health experts from all over the world came together calling for an end to coronavirus lockdowns earlier this week.
They created a petition, called the Great Barrington Declaration, which said that lockdowns were doing “irreparable damage.”
“As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists, we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection,” read the petition.
“Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health.”
The petition has had 12,000 signatures so far.
It was authored by Sunetra Gupta of the University of Oxford, Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University, and Martin Kulldorff of Harvard University.
When asked about the petition, Dr Nabarro had only good things to say. “Really important point by Professor Gupta,” he said.