The UN Human Rights High Commissioner on Thursday warned of potential risks as more countries move to lift lockdown measures put in place to contain COVID-19 spread.
UN News reported Michelle Bachelet, a former doctor, health minister and Head of State, acknowledged the challenge facing governments as they grapple with the medical crisis, while also trying to save their economies from collapsing.
“Balancing the economic imperatives with the health and human rights imperatives during the COVID-19 pandemic is going to be one of the most delicate, daunting and defining experiences for all leaders and all governments. Their place in history will be decided by how well or how badly they perform over the coming months”, she said while speaking from Geneva to journalists.
“If their response is based on the interests of a particular elite – causing the disease to flare up again in other less privileged or marginalized communities – it will rebound on everyone.”
COVID-19 continues to disrupt the lives of billions across the planet, including countless workers and students who are now confined to their homes in efforts to protect lives from the deadly disease.
More than four million cases were recorded globally as of Thursday, and more than 290,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
“If an affected country comes out of lock-down too hastily, there is a danger that a second wave, costing many more lives, will be triggered sooner and more destructively than would otherwise be the case,” said Ms. Bachelet.
“If the re-opening of societies is mishandled, all the huge sacrifices made during the initial lock-down will have been for nothing. However, the damage to individuals and to economies will not just be retained – it will be significantly amplified. “
The UN rights chief posited considerations for lifting lockdowns, focused primarily on WHO guidance which stresses that transmission needs to be controlled while healthcare systems must be able to detect, test, isolate and treat every case, and trace contacts.
She pointed to South Korea, New Zealand and Germany as countries that have followed this advice from the outset.
However, she added that “we can also learn lessons” from South Korea and Germany which have seen a resurgence of COVID-19 cases since relaxing their lockdown and emergency measures.