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'We have to take the fight to the virus': WHO's Michael Ryan says lockdowns are not enough

Ryan said countries must “actively look” for those infected.

Michael Ryan of the World Health Organisation.
Michael Ryan of the World Health Organisation.
Image: PA Images

THE WORLD HEALTH Organisation’s Michael Ryan has said that authorities need to do more that just lockdown cities to battle Covid-19 and must “take the fight to the virus”. 

Ryan, the WHO’s health emergencies director, said in an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that, following on from lockdowns, authorities must “actively look” for people who are infected.  

“The issue with testing is we need to find suspect cases, we need to find the people who have the virus, and we need to isolate those patients as quickly as possible,” he said.

“The physical distancing measures that are in place, the lockdowns, separate everybody from everybody else. But 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.”

Ryan went on to say that part of the risk for authorities is in putting too much emphasis on lockdowns without a plan in place for what’s required when restrictions are lifted.

Across the globe an estimated 900 million people are confined to their homes, with the majority hemmed in by obligatory government lockdown orders.

Others are under curfew or in quarantine or following advice not to leave their homes.

“The danger right now with the lockdowns and with all the physical distancing and people are feeling this now, is that it’s really putting pressure on the economy and putting pressure on the social system,” Ryan said. 

If we don’t put in place the strong measures, the strong public health measures now, when those movement restrictions and lockdowns are lifted the danger is that disease will jump back up.

Ryan cited places like China, Singapore and Korea as examples of countries that are “focused on having a comprehensive strategy”. 

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“When they got the flames of the fire pushed down through physical distancing or through lockdowns, they then went after the virus, they went looking for the virus. We need to actively search for cases of the virus, and we need to test every single suspect case. ”

“We don’t need to test everybody. We need to focus on testing those who may have the virus,” Ryan added. 

“And we have to try and suppress the transmission of the virus. And once we’ve suppressed transmission, we have to go after the virus. We have to take the fight to the virus.”

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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