A hasty lifting of restrictions imposed to control the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to a fatal resurgence of the new coronavirus, the World Health Organisation warned on Friday.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was working with countries on ways in which lockdowns could be gradually eased, but said doing so too quickly could be dangerous.
"I know that some countries are already planning thetransition out of stay-at-home restrictions. WHO wants to see restrictionslifted as much as anyone," he told a virtual press conference in Geneva.
"At the same time, lifting restrictions too quicklycould lead to a deadly resurgence. The way down can be as dangerous as the wayup if not managed properly.
"WHO is working with affected countries on strategiesfor gradually and safely easing restrictions."
The global death toll is rapidly approaching 100,000.
More than 1.6 million infections have been recordedglobally, according to an AFP tally, since the virus first emerged in China inDecember.
Tedros welcomed signs that the spread of the virus wasslowing in some of the hardest-hit countries in Europe — namely Spain, Italy,Germany and France.
But he also warned of an "alarming acceleration"of the virus in some countries, highlighting Africa, where he said the viruswas beginning to spread to rural areas.
"We are now seeing clusters of cases and communityspread in more than 16 countries" on the continent, he said."We anticipate severe hardship for alreadyoverstretched health systems, particularly in rural areas, which normally lackthe resources of those in cities." Tedros also sent his best wishes toBritish Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has been moved out of intensive careas he battles the coronavirus.