By Skylar Thoma
MAIN IMAGE: Scattered people walk about a park in Wuhan, China. The city in which the coronavirus epidemic began is now relaxing its lockdown measures. SOURCE: Pexels
After more than two months under a strict lockdown, Wuhan, the city where coronavirus was first reported, is finally beginning to relax restrictions on movement.
On Monday (6 April) China reported no new cases of the coronavirus, and announced on Wednesday that it was easing the tight controls it had put in place in Wuhan.
But as promising as the news seems, the World Health Organization (WHO) is warning other countries not to be too hasty in relaxing their measures to combat the epidemic.
Reuters reported on Tuesday that WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said there is a possibility of the virus resurging if restrictions are loosened too quickly.
“It’s similar to being sick yourself,” he explained to reporters during a virtual press briefing. “If you get out of bed too early and get running too early you risk falling back and having complications”.
The city of Wuhan had been under a strict lockdown since January 23. Residents are now allowed to travel outside their residential compounds, although schools remain closed and some travel restrictions remain in place.
In several other countries where lockdown measures are in place, rates of increase in infection numbers appear to be tapering. The Washington Post reports that among these, New Zealand’s numbers are low. Rates of increase in Italy and Spain are also reported to be flattening.
Some countries are hoping to follow China’s lead and begin relaxing lockdown measures. Denmark hopes to phase out its lockdown if the number of cases can stabilise by Easter, according to Reuters.
But in other countries, authorities are cautious about making promises. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told reporters on Tuesday that no decision had yet been made about lifting or extending the country’s nationwide lockdown. The administration is waiting on a scientific report on the effectiveness of the lockdown before making a final decision, according to News24.
US President Donald Trump had raised the possibility of reopening the country in late March, but has since walked back his suggestion as the country is undergoing a surge of new cases and deaths.
Many countries are becoming increasingly worried about the economic fallout from the pandemic. But WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned that the economic damage will be far worse if lockdown measures are lifted too quickly, reports CNBC.
“Ultimately the best way for countries to end restrictions and ease their economic effects is to attack the virus”, he said.
Experts interviewed by Nature magazine believe that if China can end its lockdown without a resurgence of the virus, other countries may follow suit. But for now, health experts say, countries need to stay vigilant and watch for a second wave.