Addressing demonstrators who took to the streets across Europe, on Saturday (August 29) in protest against coronavirus restrictions, WHO Director General Tedros warned: “The virus is real, it’s dangerous, it moves fast and it kills.”
A woman takes off her face mask upon arrival at Playa Chica beach in Puerto del Rosario, Canary Islands.
GENEVA (REUTERS, AFP) – Countries with significant active spread of coronavirus must prevent amplifying events, as opening up without the virus being under control would be a “ recipe for disaster”, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday (Aug 31).
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recognised that many people are getting tired of restrictions and want to return to normality eight months into the pandemic.
The WHO fully supported efforts to reopen economies and societies, he told a news conference, adding: “We want to see children returning to school and people returning to workplaces, but we want to see it done safely.”
“No country can just pretend the pandemic is over,” he said.“The reality is this virus spreads easily. Opening up without control is a recipe for disaster.”
“Explosive outbreaks” have been linked to gatherings of people at stadiums, nightclubs, places of worship and other crowds, where the respiratory virus can spread easily among clusters of people, Dr Tedros said.
“Avoid these amplifying events so that the other economic sectors can actually open up and the economy can go back into life,” he noted. “I think we can live without going to the stadium.”
The WHO chief also urged governments to engage with people demonstrating against Covid-19 restrictions and listen to their concerns, but stressed protesters needed to understand the virus was dangerous.
Asked about recent demonstrations in a number of countries against coronavirus restrictions, Dr Tedros said it was important to “listen to what people are asking, what people are saying”.
“We should engage in an honest dialogue,” he told reporters, stressing though that demonstrators have a responsibility to ensure protests are safe.
“The virus is real. It is dangerous. It moves fast and it kills,” he said, insisting “we have to do everything to protect ourselves and to protect others”.
German police on Saturday halted a Berlin march by tens of thousands of people opposed to coronavirus restrictions in the biggest of several European protests against face mask rules and other anti-virus curbs.
Several hundred of the Berlin protesters then broke through barriers and a police cordon to storm Germany’s Parliament, in a move German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned as “shameful”.
Speaking about the broader protests, WHO emergencies chief Michael Ryan pointed out that “epidemics and emergencies create strong emotions, and acceptance of measures is always very, very tough”.
“It is really important that governments don’t overreact to people protesting against measures,” he told the virtual briefing.
“The real important thing to do is to enter into a dialogue with groups.”
While acknowledging the importance of allowing different viewpoints to be heard, Dr Tedros took issue with the opinions voiced by some that high death rates were not really a concern if it is mainly the elderly who are dying.
“Accepting someone to die because of age is moral bankruptcy at its highest, and we shouldn’t allow our society to behave this way,” he said.
“Every life whether it is young or old is precious. And we have to do everything to save it.”
LISTEN TO HEALTH CHECK PODCAST
Sign up for our daily updates here and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.
Get The Straits Times app and receive breaking news alerts and more. Download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store now.