WHO's David Nabarro 'misquoted' over the use of lockdowns

The World Health Organisation's special envoy on COVID-19 says he has 'been misquoted' over the u...
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

21.56 20 Oct 2020

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WHO's David Nabarro 'misquoted' over the use of lockdowns

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

21.56 20 Oct 2020

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The World Health Organisation's special envoy on COVID-19 says he has 'been misquoted' over the use of lockdowns.

Dr David Nabarro told The Hard Shoulder he is not against the measure, but wants to put processes in place to avoid it.

"I've been misquoted a bit around the place.


"What I was saying we don't want lockdown, it was not to say 'we should just let go' - it was to say we've got to get the systems right and once the systems are right then we can avoid the lockdown".

He said such systems include testing and tracing.

"The way in which you stop this virus from building up in a community is spotting where spikes of disease are appearing."

He said once you catch these spikes, you find people with the disease and isolate them "really rigorously".

"And then you do everything you can to make certain that the people who are most vulnerable are protected.

"And if you've got a surge building up - a sort of real outbreak - then you may have to stop people moving into and out of the area".

"But in that way you stop the virus from spreading - it's a terribly infectious virus - and stopping the spread is the key.

'Doable at the county level'

"It's doable, it's definitely doable at the county level in Ireland - you've got all the capacity there, you've got the people who know what to do.

"It's just a case of getting the systems going - and please everybody do your physical distancing, do your mask-wearing, do your hygiene".

"That's how we'll stop these lockdowns from being imposed".

"What you don't want to happen is that you come out of lockdown... and then you go back into it in say a couple of months' time.

"That is what I think everybody should be trying to avoid."

He said the global health body is in favour of as much normality as is possible.

"We actually really do want people everywhere to be able to get on with their lives.

"We do believe that we've got - as a community, as humanity - to be able live with this virus as a constant threat.

"But that doesn't mean just letting go.

"It actually does mean having a really strong and well-organised community level public health service.

"And it means everybody following the basic procedures that have been recommended."

'It's nearly working in Ireland'

"We say 'Please avoid lockdowns' because we want those kinds of steps to be introduced and followed everywhere, so that lockdowns do not become necessary.

"If a lockdown is introduced - and by that I mean everybody being asked to stay at home and not going about their work or their social lives - we do have to accept that this has consequences, especially for poor people, especially for people who need medical care.

"And that's why we have said 'can we not work out how to get ahead of this virus without using lockdowns.'

"But it absolutely does not mean just letting go: it means putting in place all the defences that are necessary for life to go on.

"And it's nearly working in Ireland, but you've had to introduce the level five restrictions.

"And while you're putting them in place for the next six weeks, please go one step further [with] everybody doing the physical distancing and masking, and really good basic health services to do the testing, tracing and the isolating.

"And then perhaps Christmas can be celebrated in a way that we're familiar with".

His comments echo those of WHO spokesperson Dr Margaret Harris, who told Newstalk Breakfast with Susan Keogh that a lockdown should not be used as a country's only strategy.

WHO's David Nabarro 'misquoted' over the use of lockdowns

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Main image: David Nabarro at the headquarters of World Health Organisation (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland in 2017. Picture by: Xinhua/SIPA USA/PA Images

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