WHO Reverses Course, Calls on Nations to Avoid Coronavirus Lockdowns

World Health Organization Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, lockdowns have been used by governments all over the globe to try to control the spread of the virus.

Implementing draconian rulings which forbid citizens from stepping foot outside their door unless armed with official papers, and/or closing all businesses which cater to the public including restaurants, entertainment venues and beauty parlors, the nations of the world have used various permutations of lockdowns to try to curtail the virulence of the pandemic.

Stunning about-face

In a stunning about-face, the World Health Organization has now come out against lockdowns, saying they have on the whole done more harm than good, leading to severe recessions that have amounted to the impoverishment of many around the globe.

The WHO’s Dr. David Nabarro appealed to global leaders this week, imploring them to stop “using lockdowns as your primary control method” for the coronavirus.

His controversial statement seems to have bucked the advice given early on in the pandemic, when governments around the world ordered the shuttering of businesses and schools and severely limited travel.

Nabarro now says that the main product of coronavirus lockdowns worldwide was the creation of more poverty — while not mentioning the number of lives these strict measures saved.

“Lockdowns just have one consequence that you must never ever belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer,” he explained to members of the press.

He implored world leaders to cease “using lockdowns as your primary control method.”

“We in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus,” Dr. Nabarro told The Spectator.

He then went on to clarify his statement, saying “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.”

The physician has studied impacts around the globe, particularly in areas that are less wealthy and almost completely dependent on tourism just to survive year to year.

Doubling of world poverty by next year

“Just look at what’s happened to the tourism industry in the Caribbean, for example, or in the Pacific because people aren’t taking their holidays,” he explained. “Look what’s happened to smallholder farmers all over the world… Look what’s happening to poverty levels. It seems that we may well have a doubling of world poverty by next year. We may well have at least a doubling of child malnutrition.”

In the West, it was easy this year to bemoan the more draconian lockdowns, when in some countries, including Greece, citizens were unable to set foot outdoors unless they had filled out a paper from the government stating exactly where they were going. And even then, their destination had to be the doctor’s office, the pharmacy, or work, for the most part.

Some countries had even stricter lockdowns, in which one was not allowed outdoors unless it was to walk a pet. And of course in China, there was the famous video footage of police welding a metal door shut to imprison an infected person inside after he had attempted to leave.

Believing these measures should be off the table now, Dr. Nabarro is encouraging the formation of new approaches to dealing with the virus.

“We really do appeal to all world leaders: stop using lockdowns as your primary control method. Develop better systems for doing it. Work together and learn from each other.”

Since the Spring, some health experts from around the world had called for the abolition lockdowns, saying even at that time that they would in the long run do more harm than good for the world’s populace as a whole.

Dr. John Ioannidis of Stanford University. File photo

Ioannidis and other experts vindicated

Dr. John Ioannidis, a professor of Medicine, Epidemiology and Population Health, and of Biomedical Data Science, and Statistics at Stanford University, who also serves as the co-Director of the Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford, was one of the experts who first expressed skepticism of the need for lockdowns, saying they were overall much more harmful than the effects of the disease.

In an exclusive interview with Greek Reporter, Ioannidis was asked in September about the need or efficacy of imposing another lockdown in the country after a sharp spike in the number of coronavirus cases.

“It would be a devastating mistake to do so and it will run the risk of severely damaging and crippling the country,” he said at the time.

The esteemed epidemiologist, who had called earlier in the year called for there to be no lockdowns in response to the virus, had some stern words of warning when weighing the risks between protecting the populace from Covid-19 and shutting down the economy once again.

Dr. Ioannidis had calculated that the economic crisis which hit Greece between 2010-18 cost around three thousand lives per year, explaining to Greek Reporter that “we published an analysis of the Greek mortality data in Lancet Public Health that showed that each year of the economic crisis that hit Greece in the last decade resulted in 3,000 excess deaths – every year.

“The bulk of that excess was for common causes of mortality like cardiovascular disease and nervous system problems, but there were also considerable contributions from suicides and mental health deterioration,” Ioannidis stated.

However, he continued, “Financial crises devastate both mental and physical health and they severely damage our health systems. The severity of the current crisis due to the pandemic and the imposed lockdown is clearly more severe than what happened in the last decade — and reversibility cannot be guaranteed.”

Great Barrington Declaration

Another group of health experts from around the globe had just this past week organized toward the goal of outlawing lockdowns globally. Crafting a petition called the “Great Barrington Declaration,” they stated that these must strict of all coronavirus-fighting measures had created, and were still creating, “irreparable damage.”

“As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists, we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection,” the petition states.

Authored by Dr. Sunetra Gupta of Oxford University, Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University and Martin Kildorff of Harvard, the document goes on to charge that “Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health.” So far, the petition has garnered 12,000 signatures.

The WHO is currently meeting with experts and providing an update on the current coronavirus situation in Europe, where several countries, including Spain, are now posting higher Covid-19 infection rates than ever before.