WHO: zero risk of coronavirus not possible post-lockdown

By Isabel Saco

Geneva, May 18 (efe-epa).- Four months after the first Covid-19 case appeared outside China it is clear that zero risk of infection is impossible and we need to accept this if we are to return to a semblance of normal life.

These are the words of Sylvie Briand, head of World Health Organisation’s global infectious hazard preparedness division, who explains in an interview with Efe that the risk can only be minimised by understanding the transmission modes.

Despite the global death toll exceeding 300,000, people have continued to make comparisons between the coronavirus outbreak and seasonal influenza.

Briand says the main difference between the two is that there are antivirals and vaccines for winter flu but not for the novel coronavirus.

These will be some of the issues discussed between 194 countries on Monday and Tuesday during the WHO’s virtual general assembly focusing on the evolution of the contagion.

QUESTION: A number of countries have started to lift quarantine or are about to do so but not all of them seem ready and there is already talk of a second wave of the pandemic. How can countries reduce the risks in this new phase?

ANSWER: Each country must analyse what the main transmission factors were for them. For example, at the WHO we determined that large meetings and enclosed spaces increased the contagion, as well as the fact that people did not pay attention to basic hygiene rules. There are no miracle recipes and transmission must be reduced at the same time in schools, workplaces and public places. Everything cannot reopen at once but first the places where there was less risk. The second package of measures is to protect people at increased risk of suffering from a severe version of the disease, such as the elderly or chronically ill.

Q: The role of children in the spread of the pandemic is still not entirely clear but in several countries in Asia and Europe they are returning to schools because they are considered to be responsible for a minimal proportion of infections. Can children go back to visiting their grandparents?

A: It is true that children can be carriers and transmit the virus without symptoms. A child may be infected without knowing it so if their grandparents are high-risk then additional precautions must be taken such as keeping physical distance. We know it is frustrating but it is better than getting seriously ill. Grandparents can wear masks and while the virus is with us the best thing is not to hug or kiss each other.

In schools it is difficult for children to maintain a physical distance and it is true that when children are together it increases the risk of transmitting the virus but what is clear is that if a child is ill their chance of transmission increases and so must stay home.

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