Lockdowns Not the Primary Tool in COVID Fight: WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that lockdowns should not be the primary tool used by nations in the fight against COVID, adding that the risks of poverty could add to existing medical concerns.

The statement came from the Director General of the WHO, Dr David Nabarro, who issued a statement to world leaders saying that lockdowns should not be the primary tool used against the COVID-19 virus. 

Dr Nabarro has said that “we in the World Health Organisation do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus.” He added that “we really do appeal to all world leaders, stop using lockdown as your primary method of control.” 


Nabarro continued to explain that “lockdowns just have one consequence that you must never ever belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer.” Nabarro added that “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,” he said. 

“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.” 

Nabarro concluded by stating that “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,” he said. 

Director General Nabarro has previously written that governments should look to walk the tightrope between restriction on the public to curb the spread of the virus while balancing the priorities of the economy and personal lives of citizens. 

“Too many restrictions damage people’s livelihoods and provoke resentment,” he writes. “Virus run wild will lead to lots of deaths as well as debilitating long-COVID among young people.” 

He writes that “it is important there is enough testing capacity to pick up where the virus is, to detect spikes and manage surges,” adding that “lockdowns just freeze the virus… they do not lead to elimination.” 

While critics are now saying that the WHO has ‘backflipped’ on its position, the World Health Organisation has said that it has advocated for hygiene, isolation and contact tracing as the primary means of fighting the virus since mid-April. 

A spokesperson for the WHO, Dr Margaret Harris has said that “it’s not a backflip, it is not a change in advice,” adding that “right from the start we have said what we’d really like to see is a strong tracking, tracing, the community hand-washing and mask wearing, so that you don’t have to go into lockdown.” 

“A lot of countries have had to go to lockdown, but we say do all the other things to avoid going there because the economic and social costs are very high,” Dr Harris added. “We have never said go into lockdown – we have said track, trace, isolate, treat.” 

 A report from the ABC says that “the statement by Dr Harris on Monday is consistent with a statement she gave to Australian media in April.” 

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Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the WHO has told the media that “we know that early case finding, testing, isolating, caring for every case and tracing every contact is essential for stopping transmission.” 

“As I have said many times, physically distancing restrictions are only part of the equation, and there are many other basic public health measures that need to be put in place,” he said. 

“In countries with large poor populations, the stay-at-home orders and other restrictions used in some high-income countries may not be practical,” he added, stating that “many poor people, migrants and refugees are already living in overcrowded conditions with few resources and little access to healthcare.” 

“How do you survive a lockdown when you expend on your daily labour to eat?,” Ghebreyesus pondered. 

Currently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued six-point guidelines to governments around the world to reopen their economies while minimising the risks of the coronavirus spreading and overwhelming medical infrastructure. 

These include: 

  • Ensuring community transmission is controlled
  • Supporting health facilities with equipment, and increase tracing and isolation of positive cases
  • Minimising the risks of spread within hospitals, nursing homes and aged care facilities
  • Implementing mitigation strategies in schools, workplaces and essential services
  • Ensuring the virus isn’t able to be imported into the country
  • Educating the public as to the best practices of virus management

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