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WHO doctors warn against complete reversals of COVID-19 restrictions

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World Health Organization (WHO) doctors advised policymakers to loosen COVID-19 restrictions slowly, rather than removing everything at once. 

In a Thursday question-and-answer video, Dr. Mike Ryan said the agency recognizes the desire to open up and “go back to normal.” 

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“But, if that desire to go back to completely normal, in that sense, is going to sustain this pandemic going forward for much longer than in needs to be, then we really need to think about that,” Ryan cautioned. 

“I do think that, in some situations, the political pressure now to open up and remove all restrictions of all kinds is so high that we may overshoot the runway, and we may end up in a situation where – and again, I’m acknowledging uncertainty. I’m not sure that will happen and I’m not predicting that will happen, but I’m a bit nervous right now that we’re sort of just lifting everything.” 

Should the world “get hit” with another coronavirus variant and all COVID-19 measures have been “sort of abandoned,” it’s “going to be really hard to put anything back in place,” Ryan said.

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove touted a “slow, step-wise approach,” rather than lifting all restrictions.

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“In some countries, they’re in a better position to be able to do that because they have high levels of vaccination coverage, high levels of population level immunity, and they have the ability to adjust,” Kerkhove said. 

“But, in many countries, it is ill-advised to lift everything all at once. We just need to have countries not do this all-or-nothing approach because it’s confusing, and I don’t blame anyone that’s out there that is confused. But, what is important for you to hear out there, which I hope is empowering, is that you have control over this.”

Ryan asked every individual to “look at [their] situation,” reduce their risks of infection and get vaccinated.

“And, just be safe and be careful. And, if we all do that, if everyone does that a little bit then the overall risks decrease,” Ryan said. 

“But, this idea that we’re just going to abandon everything, I think, is a very premature concept in many countries right now.”

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Over the past couple of weeks, state and local leaders in the U.S. have announced decisions to lift mask mandates and proof-of-vaccination requirements. 

Cases and hospitalizations in the U.S. have fallen since the omicron variant’s January surge, but daily deaths are still high. 


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