The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that rushing to ease CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus restrictions could lead to a resurgence of the disease as some states across the United States, particularly those who have not been as hard hit by the pandemic, have announced plans to reopen and get their economies up and running again.
“This is not the time to be lax. Instead, we need to ready ourselves for a new way of living for the foreseeable future,” said Dr. Takeshi Kasai, the WHO regional director for the Western Pacific.
Kasai said governments must remain vigilant to stop the spread of the virus, and the lifting of lockdowns and other social distancing measures must be done gradually and strike the right balance between keeping people healthy and allowing economies to function.
Last week, President Donald Trump said it was time to start “opening up America again” as he announced the creation of a task force to help reopen the economy. The administration published an 18-page document providing guidance on how states can move toward getting people back to work and reopening schools and businesses.
The document outlines three “phases” for lifting restrictions put in place to stop the spread of the CCP virus, and each state must meet certain criteria to progress, including having a downward trend of positive virus tests and reports of flu or COVID-19-like symptoms.
“We can begin the next front in our war, which we are calling ‘Opening Up America Again,'” Trump said in a briefing. “To preserve the health of Americans, we must preserve the health of our economy.”
However, Trump noted that different states would open up at different times as some are in better shape than others.
A number of governors across the United States are beginning to announce timelines for relaxing strict measures put in place to prevent the spread of the virus. Many are dropping stay-at-home orders beginning May 1 amid a surge in unemployment numbers and the prospect of economic depression. However, several states have not yet announced an end to restrictions.
On Monday, the governors of Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee announced they would allow for the reopening of some types of closed businesses. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said those businesses will be able to open by next week, while South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said some businesses can reopen by this Monday at 5 p.m., and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said that his state’s stay-at-home mandate would end by April 30.
Hair salons, barbers, bowling alleys, tattoo parlors, gyms, and other businesses will be allowed to open in Georgia on Friday, Kemp said. On April 27, restaurants and theaters will be able to open under social distancing guidelines, although bars and similar venues will be closed.
McMaster added that a number of retail stores in the state can open at 5 p.m. on Monday, including furniture, jewelry, clothing, shoe, book, flower, and other types of stores.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said Monday that he would allow hospitals to begin performing elective procedures if the facilities met an unspecified set of criteria, while Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Monday that he would let his statewide stay-at-home order expire next week as long as strict social distancing and other individual protective measures continued.
Over the weekend, the mayor of Jacksonville, Florida, ended restrictions on beaches, allowing people to walk, run, and swim under social-distancing guidelines.
Elsewhere around the world, step-by-step reopenings are underway in Europe, where the crisis has begun to ebb in places such as Italy, Spain, and Germany.
Australia said Tuesday that it will allow the resumption of non-urgent surgeries from next week as health authorities grow more confident that hospitals there won’t be overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients.
South Korea reported only eight new CCP virus cases on Sunday and Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said the government would consider opening public outdoor facilities and would relax guidelines on the circumstances in which sports facilities and restaurants can open. Other measures that were due to expire on Sunday were extended until May 5.
The warning from the WHO comes as Trump on Tuesday announced he will be halting funding to the organization over its handling of the CCP virus pandemic while his administration reviews its response to the global crisis. At a White House news conference, Trump said the WHO, which has faced backlash over its perceived failure to recognize the viral threat when it first emerged in Wuhan, China, had “failed in its basic duty and it must be held accountable.”
He said the group had promoted China’s “disinformation” about the CCP virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus, that likely led to a wider outbreak of the virus than otherwise would have occurred.
Jack Phillips and The Associated Press contributed to this report.