The WHO's New Stance on Lockdowns Is Already Hotly Debated
The agency is now being vocal against the overuse of lockdowns.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, many people—from economists to public health experts to politicians—have been going back and forth over whether enforcing a lockdown is the best way to contain COVID. In a surprising turn of events, on Oct. 8, the World Health Organization's (WHO) special envoy on COVID-19, David Nabarro, MD, said the WHO does not advocate lockdowns as the primary way to control COVID. Read on to find out what the WHO position really means, and for a state struggling to contain the virus, This State Has Become the "Poster Child" for How Not to Handle COVID.
For the most part, health officials have advocated implementing lockdowns early on to mitigate the spread of COVID. Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), recently confirmed that he personally recommended a nationwide shutdown to Donald Trump at the onset of the pandemic. However, as the pandemic has dragged on, Fauci has frequently said there shouldn't be a need to return to lockdown again.
While Nabarro notes there is a time and place where a lockdown is necessary, he insists they do more harm than good when implemented too frequently and without the proper planning accompanying it. "We in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus," he said. "The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to reorganize, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted, but by and large, we'd rather not do it."
If the time during lockdown is used to formulate a plan of action, it could negate the need for additional lockdowns. "We think lockdowns only serve one purpose, and that is to give you a bit of breathing space to stop everything," Nabarro continued. "The virus stops moving, and while you've got that breathing space, you should be really building up your testing, building up your contact tracing, building up your local organization, so that as you release lockdown, you're bound to get more cases, but you can deal with it really, really elegantly."
President Trump and Canadian businessman Maxime Bernier, among others, have latched onto the claim that the WHO reversed their stance on lockdowns and condemned them altogether, but Nabarro's full statement is somewhat more nuanced. He was emphasizing what many health officials have been advocating for all along: Lockdowns should used as a last resort rather than as a catchall, the WHO reiterated, and time spent in lockdown should be used to strategize measures to mitigate the spread of the virus once the lockdown is lifted.
Of course, many state governors have been adamant that lockdowns are unnecessary, if not harmful. Read on for a look at the states where leaders have spoken out against shutting down, and for more on how the pandemic has shifted, The White House Is Warning That COVID Is "Very Different" Now.
As recently as Aug. 31, Florida governor Ron DeSantis delivered an impassioned statement against further lockdowns.
"We will never do any of these lockdowns again, and I hear people say they'll shut down the country, and honestly, I cringe," DeSantis said during a press conference at The Villages retirement community. And for more recent updates on coronavirus from major health organizations, The CDC Has Finally Acknowledged That COVID Spreads Through the Air.
According to WABE, Georgia governor Brian Kemp said on Sept. 1, "I don't see us imposing any new restrictions with the numbers we're seeing right now. I do not want to go back and start shutting things down again."
Georgia was one of the earliest states to peel away restrictions back in late April, to the dismay of many scientists and other politicians in the state. And to find out where coronavirus cases are declining, These Are the Only States Where COVID Cases Are Going Down.
Texas governor Greg Abbott resisted implementing a mask mandate and opposed the idea of locking down, according to The Texas Tribune. As cases spiked in Texas over the summer, Abbott was frequently asked if there was a potential lockdown looming. "I get this question, it seems like, a thousand times a day. People are panicking, thinking I'm about to shut down Texas again. The answer is no," Abbott told KPRC 2 on July 15.
"If we were to shut down for two weeks, as some people are asking, once we open back up, you would then see things begin to spread again," he continued. "Until there are medications to slow the spread of the coronavirus, there is only one thing that can slow the spread, and that is by people adopting the use of wearing a face guard of some sort whenever they go out." And if you want to know how to practice mask safety while dining out, This Is What You Should Do With Your Mask While Eating, Dr. Fauci Says.
South Dakota has seen a surge of recent cases over the past several weeks, but Gov. Kristi Noem remains firmly anti-lockdown. During a special legislative session on Oct. 5, she said her refusal to implement a mass shutdown has been "quite lonely at times," ABC News reported.
"But earlier this week, one very prominent national reporter sent me a note that said, 'Governor, if you hadn't stood against lockdowns, we'd have no proof of just how useless they really have been,'" Noem said. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.