Economic restarts require utmost caution
China Daily

A man wears a protective mask as he walks on Wall Street during the coronavirus outbreak in New York City, New York, March 13, 2020. (Photo: Agencies)

With the COVID-19 pandemic situation appearing to be improving in some Western countries, their governments have indicated that they are considering easing some of the emergency measures because of the downward pressure on their economies and the harm being done to people's livelihoods.

But considering how the outbreak has evolved into a global pandemic, it is not yet time to relax the measures aimed at curbing transmission of the novel coronavirus.

How to balance pandemic control and economic development is indeed a challenge for governments. Judging from China's experience, it is still too early for the aforementioned Western countries to ease their prevention and control measures, as they are still far from a turning point in the pandemic.

The governments should respect the advice of experts in epidemic prevention and control, and all government decisions should be founded on facts and science, and not the needs of politics.

The World Health Organization has rolled out six concrete criteria for the countries to refer to before lifting their control measures: That transmission is controlled; health system capacities are in place to test, isolate, and treat every case and trace every contact; outbreak risks are minimized in special settings such as health facilities and nursing homes; preventive measures are in place in workplaces, schools, and other essential places; importation risks can be managed; and communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to adjust to the new norms. These are all crucial requirements that must be satisfied at the same time, as any slip in any of the six aspects can render previous efforts vain.

While countries should take advantage of the weakening of the pandemic to accumulate more favorable conditions for the rebooting of their economies, this can only be done in a phased manner, as control measures need be eased in stages.

Awakening their economies will be more difficult than putting them into enforced hibernation.