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Saturday 25 March 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Xinhua News Agency/PA Images Dr Michael Ryan of the World Health Organisation made the comments today.
# Leaving lockdown
Without contact tracing, countries are 'driving blind' warns WHO official
WHO emergencies chief Michael Ryan made the comments today.

THE WORLD HEALTH Organization (WHO) has warned that countries are essentially driving blind in reopening their economies without setting up strong contact tracing to beat flare-ups of coronavirus.

WHO emergencies chief Michael Ryan said robust contact tracing adopted by Germany and South Korea provide hope that those countries can detect and stop clusters before they get out of control.

But he said the same is not true of other countries exiting lockdowns, declining to name specific countries.

The warning came as France and Belgium emerged from lockdowns, the Netherlands sent children back to school, and a number of US states continued to lift business restrictions.

Fears of infection spikes in countries that have loosened up have been borne out in recent days in Germany, where new clusters were linked to three slaughterhouses; in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the crisis started; and in South Korea, where a single nightclub customer was linked to 85 new cases.

Authorities have warned that the scourge could come back with a vengeance without widespread testing and tracing of infected people’s contacts with others.

“Shutting your eyes and trying to drive through this blind is about as silly an equation as I’ve seen,” Ryan said. “And I’m really concerned that certain countries are setting themselves up for some seriously blind driving over the next few months.”

More than 10,000 people are involved in contact tracing in Germany, a country of 83 million.

In South Korea, the government clamped down again, halting school reopenings planned for this week and reimposing restrictions on nightclubs and bars.

It is trying to track down 5,500 patrons of a Seoul nightlife district through credit card transactions, mobile phone records and security footage.

Ireland is still planning to roll out its Covid-19 contact tracing app by the end of May, despite reported delays with the process. 

Last week, Health Minister Simon Harris said he wants an “all-island approach” to the app.

With reporting from Dominic McGrath

Press Association
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