Posted on Oct 15, 2020, 3 p.m.
The World Health Organization has warned leaders against relying on COVID-19 lockdowns as the primary method to tackle outbreaks after previously saying that countries should be careful how quickly they reopen, adding to statements made by officials causing confusion.
W.H.O. special envoy Dr. David Nabarro said that such restrictive measures should only be used as a last resort in a video interview with Andrew Neil for The Spectator. Nabarro is the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Food Security and Nutrition and Coordinator of the Scale-up Nutrition Movement. He also serves as Senior UN System Coordinator for Avian and Pandemic Influenza.
“We in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus,” Nabarro said. “The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to reorganize, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted, but by and large, we’d rather not do it.”
Nabarro points out that tight restrictions cause significant harm, particularly on the global economy, adding that such lockdowns have severely impacted countries that rely on tourism.
“Lockdowns just have one consequence that you must never, ever belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer,” 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,” said Nabarro.
“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,” adds Nabarro.
Previously the UN agency had warned countries against lifting lockdowns too soon during the initial wave of outbreak.
“The last thing any country needs is to open schools and businesses, only to be forced to close them again because of a resurgence,” said Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus who urged countries to ramp up other measures such as widespread testing and contact tracing to help support a safe reopening and avoid future lockdowns. “We need to reach a sustainable situation where we have adequate control of this virus without shutting down our lives entirely, or lurching from lockdown to lockdown — which has a hugely detrimental impact on societies,” he said.
Early on as the cases and deaths began to mount it made sense to enforce lockdowns, this gave countries time to develop a plan to tackle the outbreak with policies such as distancing, testing, protection of the vulnerable, campaigns on proper hygiene, and obtaining PPE to help slow the spread of the virus, but it should not be the intention to keep everything closed.
Unfortunately, America did not emerge from the initial short shutdown with a clear and coherent plan for the initial issues to flatten the curve. In fact, the USA appeared to be more disorganized without proper public health systems and adequate healthcare capacity in some places, or enough PPE which resulted in the extension of the shutdown for another 30 days.
There was never a real coordinated national response to this outbreak, each state did its own thing. Regardless, W.H.O says that lockdowns should not be the primary response to a pandemic. But in some places, it appears as if officials may have forgotten that these shutdowns are not a sustainable final solution and that they were only meant to be temporary while developing an action plan, yet to this day, months and months later, many still have lockdowns in place and the economy is without question suffering along with public mental health and well being. Looking at previous outbreaks things were handled much differently.
While at a first glance it may appear as if WHO is reversing its position, but if you watch the interview with Nabarro he did not really seem to say anything new, he just said the same old things about layering various policies in a coordinated way. However, yes he did urge leaders to stop relying on lockdowns as a primary control method, and he did point out the economic damage that is/can occur. “We really do appeal to all world leaders: stop using lockdown as your primary control method”.
Document Urging The End To Lockdowns
Doctors and scientists around the globe have signed a document urging an end to pandemic lockdowns, arguing that this extreme policy aimed at curtailing this outbreak has produced a devastating effect on public health.
The Great Barrington Declaration was spearheaded by doctors from Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford Universities, it was recently released and it continues to gather signatures. The 3 lead signatories who authored the document are Harvard professor of medicine Dr. Martin Kulldorf; Oxford epidemiologist Dr. Sunetra Gupta, and Stanford Medical School professor Dr. Jay Bhattacharya.
The document calls for allowing most people to “live their lives normally to build up immunity through natural infection,” which can be done while improving safeguards to help protect the elderly and others who are more at risk of infection and death from COVID-19.
At the time of this publication, the document has been signed by 9,919 medical and public health scientists, 26,482 medical practitioners, and over 475,800 concerned members of the general public according to the tally from the website.
Those who sign the document disagree with those who are in favour of maintaining restrictions until a vaccine is developed, rather they argue that lockdowns should be replaced with Focused Protection which will help to eliminate concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing policies that will cause irreparable damage with the underprivileged being disproportionately harmed.
The document reads:
“The Great Barrington Declaration – 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.
Coming from both the left and right, and around the world, we have devoted our careers to protecting people. Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice.
Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.
Fortunately, our understanding of the virus is growing. We know that vulnerability to death from COVID-19 is more than a thousand-fold higher in the old and infirm than the young. Indeed, for children, COVID-19 is less dangerous than many other harms, including influenza.
As immunity builds in the population, the risk of infection to all – including the vulnerable – falls. We know that all populations will eventually reach herd immunity – i.e. the point at which the rate of new infections is stable – and that this can be assisted by (but is not dependent upon) a vaccine. Our goal should therefore be to minimize mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity.
The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection.
Adopting measures to protect the vulnerable should be the central aim of public health responses to COVID-19. By way of example, nursing homes should use staff with acquired immunity and perform frequent PCR testing of other staff and all visitors. Staff rotation should be minimized. Retired people living at home should have groceries and other essentials delivered to their home. When possible, they should meet family members outside rather than inside. A comprehensive and detailed list of measures, including approaches to multi-generational households, can be implemented, and is well within the scope and capability of public health professionals.
Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal. Simple hygiene measures, such as hand washing and staying home when sick should be practiced by everyone to reduce the herd immunity threshold. Schools and universities should be open for in-person teaching. Extracurricular activities, such as sports, should be resumed. Young low-risk adults should work normally, rather than from home. Restaurants and other businesses should open. Arts, music, sport and other cultural activities should resume. People who are more at risk may participate if they wish, while society as a whole enjoys the protection conferred upon the vulnerable by those who have built up herd immunity.”
In America, lockdown policies vary from state to state as well as from city to city within those states, with Hawaii and California being under some of the toughest restrictions and Florida, Utah, Idaho and South Dakota having some of the lightest.
For example, recently California Governor Gavin Newsom drew some head shakes when his office tweeted a reminder to those dining out to “keep your mask on in between bites.” On the other end of the spectrum, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem described the lockdowns at a special legislative session as being “useless.” and has been quoted saying “As you all might imagine, these last seven months have been quite lonely at times,” Ms. Noem said in defence of her hands-off policies. “But earlier this week, one very prominent national reporter sent me a note that said, ‘Governor, if you hadn’t stood against lockdowns, we’d have no proof of just how useless they really have been.’”
Recently Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves has ended the statewide mask mandate as of November 11th, but still requires face coverings in schools and for those receiving close contact personal care services such as spas, salons, at barbershops and sporting events to curb the spread of the virus. Additionally, there will still be restrictions on the number of people allowed to be inside of restaurants, bars, and other businesses at the same time. But in the cities of Starkville, Tupelo, and Meridian's mask mandates will remain in effect. While in Florida Governor Ron Desantis has lifted all restrictions on business statewide, but Miami-Dade, Broward and some other counties in South Florida have locally imposed limits on the hours of operation and indoor capacity of restaurants and bars further demonstrating the lack of coordinated responses.
“We should not use the heavy hand of government more than it is justified,” Reeves said at a news conference. “We have to tailor our actions to the current threat, and make sure that they do not go beyond what is reasonable.”
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