WHO Says World Stands at a 'Pivotal Juncture' in Coronavirus Pandemic, Countries Should Ease Restrictions in Two-Week Phases

The World Health Organization has advised countries easing restrictions imposed to contain the spread of coronavirus to do so in two-week phases, in order to avoid the disease resurging.

The U.N. organization has said the world stands at a "pivotal juncture" in the fight against coronavirus.

"To reduce the risk of new outbreaks, measures should be lifted in a phased, step-wise manner based on an assessment of the epidemiological risks and socioeconomic benefits of lifting restrictions on different workplaces, educational institutions, and social activities," the WHO said.

"Ideally there would be a minimum of two weeks (corresponding to the incubation period of COVID-19) between each phase of the transition, to allow sufficient time to understand the risk of new outbreaks and to respond appropriately."

The organization warned that the "risk of re-introduction and resurgence of the disease will continue," Reuters reported.

Some of the countries hit hardest by COVID-19 are beginning to lift lockdown restrictions. At the end of March, China announced it will lift the lockdown on Wuhan, the city at the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, more than two months after the city introduced the measures.

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The World Health Organization has said the world stands at a “pivotal juncture” in the fight against coronavirus FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images

European countries badly affected the coronavirus outbreak have also made moves to lift restrictions.

Some non-essential workers in Spain are returning to their jobs as lockdown restrictions are beginning to relax. Workers in industry and construction will be able to return to work after a two-week shutdown closed all sectors apart from healthcare and food. However, shops, bars and public spaces will have to remain closed until at least the end of the month.

Under the new guidelines issued Saturday by the office of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, any companies returning to work are required to provide employees with appropriate protective equipment and ensure they have space to remain at roughly six feet apart.

Denmark will reopen daycare centres and schools for children in first to fifth grades on Wednesday.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the spread of COVID-19 around the world.

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A map showing COVID-19 cases worldwide as of April 15, 2020. Statista

In the United States, which has more than 614,000 cases—the highest number of confirmed infections globally—President Donald Trump has his administration taking steps to prepare for the expiration of the Centers for Disease Control's "30 days to stop the spread" guidelines.

"The plans to reopen the country are close to being finalized, and we will soon be sharing details and new guidelines with everybody," Trump said during the White House Coronavirus Task Force's daily briefing.

Trump added that he would be speaking to the governors of each of the 50 states on Wednesday, and that he would be "authorizing each individual governor of each individual state" to develop and implement a plan to reopen their states' economies.

This week, Trump announced that the U.S. government would suspend funding for the WHO while his administration conducts a review to determine whether the organization "covered up" the initial spread of COVID-19.

Newsweek has contacted the World Health Organization for a comment.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html)
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.