Countries in lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic have been given a “window” to attack the virus, global health leaders have said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said countries with stringent quarantine measures to help battle the spread of the virus had an opportunity to “find, isolate, test, treat and trace” cases.
If steps are not taken, when lockdowns are lifted there could be a “resurgence” of the virus.
WHO said that is has recorded 16,000 deaths associated with the virus.
“It is public enemy number one,” WHO’s director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
On Monday, Boris Johnson issued a stay-at-home order to the nation, sending the country into a three-week lockdown to fight the pandemic.
Now WHO said that asking people to stay at home and shutting down population movement can buy time and reduce pressure on health systems.
“But on their own, these measures will not extinguish epidemics,” said Dr Ghebreyesus.
“The point of these actions is to enable the more precise and targeted measures that are needed to stop transmission and save lives.
“We call on all countries who have introduced so-called lockdown measures to use this time to attack the coronavirus.
“You have created a second window of opportunity. How will you use it?”
He said there were six steps that countries could take, adding: “Expand, train and deploy your health care and public health workforce.
“Implement a system to find every suspected case at community level.
“Ramp up the production, capacity and availability of testing.
“Identify, adapt and equip facilities you will use to treat and isolate patients.
“Develop a clear plan and process to quarantine contacts.
“Refocus the whole of government on suppressing and controlling Covid-19.”
He continued: “These measures are the best way to suppress and stop transmission, so that when restrictions are lifted, the coronavirus doesn’t resurge.
“The last thing any country needs is to open schools and businesses, only to be forced to close them again because of a resurgence.
“Aggressive measures to find, isolate, test, treat and trace are not only the best and fastest way out of extreme social and economic restrictions – they’re also the best way to prevent them.”
Dr Tedros said that he welcomed a UN call for a global ceasefire, adding: “We are all facing a common threat, and the only way to defeat it is by coming together as one humanity.”