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The emergencies chief for the World Health Organization is calling on governments to exercise “extreme caution” in fully lifting restrictions aimed to curtail the spread of COVID-19, warning that transmission will increase as countries open up.
Dr. Michael Ryan, asked during a WHO news conference to respond to Britain’s decision this week to ease restrictions despite rising case counts, says “every country right now is lifting restrictions in one way or the other” in hopes of striking a balance between a return toward normality and the need to control the virus as vaccinations increase.
“Transmission will increase when you open up,” says Ryan, because not everyone is vaccinated and uncertainty remains about how much vaccination curbs transmission.
Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, says several factors were driving transmission of COVID-19: The behavior of the coronavirus and its variants; social mixing; reduced social measures; and unequal and uneven distribution of coronavirus vaccines.
“The virus is showing us right now that it’s thriving,” she says. “This is not theoretical.”
Globally, there’s been nearly 4 million confirmed deaths from the coronavirus.