With more than 336,000 confirmed cases and at least 14,600 deaths across the globe, many countries and regions have imposed lockdowns in their territories to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The World Health Organization (WHO), however, says it is not enough.
Government and health measures against the novel coronavirus, officially called the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), must extend beyond large-scale lockdowns, a WHO emergency-preparedness expert said.
“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,” Dr. Michael Ryan, Chief Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, said in a statement.
He added that though lockdowns will suppress the spread of the virus at the moment if there are no strong public health measures in place, once these are lifted, the threat of the disease will reemerge.
The key to preventing the vast spread of the virus is to conduct large-scale testing of residents in an affected area. This way, the authorities can detect who is infected and isolate them. Further, once the transmission is suppressed, then efforts to get rid of the virus will follow.
In China, Singapore, and South Korea, health officials have imposed a combination of mass testing and restrictions to curb the rapid spread of the virus. They have shown improvements by reporting lesser cases and deaths in the past few weeks.
He added that though the vaccines will eventually arrive soon, it is crucial to act now to prevent further cases and deaths related to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Lockdowns are effective since there is a limit in the movements of people in the affected region or country. Though community quarantines and lockdowns show promise in preventing the spread of the virus, the WHO says people should get tested.
When testing becomes rampant in an area, health authorities can quickly determine who is infected. They can prevent the virus from transmitting to other people through self-isolation measures.
In comparison, Italy has imposed lockdowns, but the worst-hit country in the world still sees a sharp increase in the number of infections. So far, the country has the highest death toll, with 5,476 deaths and 59,138 confirmed cases. The United States comes in second with 33,276 confirmed cases, while Spain, Germany, and Iran trail behind with 28,768, 24,873, and 21,638 cases, respectively.
Social distancing, proper hygiene, and avoiding crowds are still useful measures to prevent infection. Ryan also said that severe vaccines are currently being developed, with the U.S. starting the first trial. Though, he said it might take about a year before a vaccine becomes available.