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Lockdowns Not Enough to Defeat Coronavirus, Says WHO's Emergency Expert Mike Ryan

Mike Ryan, Executive Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) attends a news conference on the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland May 3, 2019. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Mike Ryan, Executive Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) attends a news conference on the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland May 3, 2019. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Ryan said the the danger currently with the lockdowns is in case effective aren’t put in place, when those movement restrictions and lockdowns are lifted, the danger is the disease will jump back up.

  • Agencies London
  • Last Updated: March 22, 2020, 4:30 PM IST
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Countries can't simply lock down their societies to defeat coronavirus, the World Health Organization's top emergency expert Mike Ryan said on Sunday, adding that there need to be public health measures to avoid a resurgence of the virus later on.

"What we really need to focus on is finding those who are sick, those who have the virus, and isolate them, find their contacts and isolate them," Mike Ryan said in an interview on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.

"The danger right now with the lockdowns ... if we don't put in place the strong public health measures now, when those movement restrictions and lockdowns are lifted, the danger is the disease will jump back up."

Nearly one billion people around the world were confined to their homes on Sunday, as the coronavirus death toll crossed 13,000 and factories were shut in worst-hit Italy after another single-day fatalities record.

The raging pandemic has forced lockdowns in 35 countries, disrupting lives, travel and businesses as governments scramble to shut borders and unleash hundreds of billions in emergency measures to avoid a widespread virus-fuelled economic meltdown.

More than 300,000 infections have been confirmed worldwide, with the situation increasingly grim in Italy where the death toll spiked to more than 4,800 -- over a third of the global total.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced a closure of all non-essential factories in a late-night TV address on Saturday.

The Mediterranean nation of 60 million is now the epicentre of the disease, which first emerged in central China late last year before marching out to the rest of the world.

Italy has now reported more deaths than mainland China and third-placed Iran combined, and it has a death rate of 8.6 percent among confirmed COVID-19 infections -- significantly higher than in most other countries.

Across the Atlantic, more than a third of Americans were adjusting to life in various phases of lockdown, including in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Other parts of the United States are expected to ramp up restrictions as well.

"This is a time of shared national sacrifice, but also a time to treasure our loved ones," US President Donald Trump said. "We're going to have a great victory."

As world leaders have vowed to fight the pandemic, the number of deaths and infections has continued to rise, especially in Europe -- now the main coronavirus hotspot.

Spain reported a 32 percent spike in new deaths on Saturday, with Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez warning that the nation needs to prepare for "very hard days ahead".

Fatalities in France jumped to 562 as police officials said helicopters and drones were being deployed to boost the government's attempts to keep people in their homes.

The unprecedented measures to counter the spread of COVID-19 have shredded the international sports calendar, and pressure is mounting on Olympic organisers to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Games.

(With Reuters and AFP inputs)

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