Covid-19: WHO’s stark warning as countries move to lift restrictions amid pandemic

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Covid-19: WHO’s stark warning as countries move to lift restrictions amid pandemic

The World Health Organisation has given a stark warning to countries looking to relax their Covid-19 restrictions as the pandemic rages on. England’s

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The World Health Organisation has given a stark warning to countries looking to relax their Covid-19 restrictions as the pandemic rages on.

England’s pandemic roadmap made headlines this week after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced plans to end social distancing, mask wearing and lockdowns by July 19.

Johnson also said the pandemic was “far from over” and that the UK must reconcile ourselves, sadly, to more deaths from Covid-19”.

The UK’s plans were labelled as a “barbaric experiment” by a New Zealand expert. The Government and Opposition also dismissed the idea, with both Chris Hipkins and Judith Collins saying that New Zealanders would not accept that mindset here.

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The UK is aiming to relax its Covid-19 restrictions by this July. (File photo)

Alberto Pezzali/AP

The UK is aiming to relax its Covid-19 restrictions by this July. (File photo)

A senior WHO official has urged countries to lift their Covid-19 restrictions slowly so as “not to lose the gains that [they] have made”.

Executive director of the WHO’s emergencies programme, Dr Mike Ryan​, spoke at a media briefing which was aimed at urging countries to share Covid-19 vaccines.

At the briefing, Ryan was asked to respond to the UK’s reopening and lifting of restrictions. Ryan stressed he did not want to comment on specific countries, adding that every nation must decide for itself. But he did say the idea that everyone is protected and everything would go back to normal was “a very dangerous assumption anywhere in the world”.

That also included Europe, where “we’ve seen wave after wave of cases,” Ryan was reported as saying at the media briefing.

People sit at outside tables in Covent Garden, London, in June 2021. (File photo)

Alberto Pezzali/AP

People sit at outside tables in Covent Garden, London, in June 2021. (File photo)

Ryan’s warning comes amid renewed concern over the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, which is currently being seen in outbreaks in some Australian states.

Ryan added that he believed British scientists were “very aware of the threat represented by variants, especially the Delta variant” and would open cautiously, Reuters reported him saying.

He urged global government’s to keep in mind that transmission would likely increase after opening up because not everyone is vaccinated, and “we’re still not sure to what extent vaccination protects against the ability to be infected or have onward transmission”.

“With increased transmission in the community, we then put our most vulnerable at risk again,” The Straits Times reported him saying.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson has voiced confidence that the remaining restrictions on social contact in England will be lifted on July 19. (File photo)

Jeff J Mitchell/AP

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has voiced confidence that the remaining restrictions on social contact in England will be lifted on July 19. (File photo)

Addressing the speed of some countries’ plans to reopen, Ryan said that a combination of low vaccination rates, easing restrictions and variants circulating threatened a “toxic mixture” for hospitals, The Guardian reported him saying.

In response to a question, Ryan said the idea of letting people get infected with Covid-19 earlier rather than later was “epidemiological stupidity”, The Guardian reported him saying.

On Thursday (NZ time) WHO announced that there had been four million Covid-19 deaths recorded since the pandemic began.

At the briefing WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus​ said the the milestone was “tragic” and likely underestimated the overall toll.

He added that the world was at a “perilous point in this pandemic”.

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