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Government considerations before lifting COVID-19 restrictions

Four key points to ensure safety before social-distancing is relaxed


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With many people wondering when countries can safely lift pandemic restrictions, Director of the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and expert on pandemic preparedness Tom Inglesby discussed some criteria to be considered by governments before lifting restrictions.


According to Ingelsby, a country should be able to evaluate trend data to help with decision-making regarding states and their neighboring states. In particular, states in the same region should be able to see a consistent decline in COVID-19 cases for two weeks straight before relaxing social distancing.


Another thing to take into consideration is a country’s widespread diagnostic testing capability. While most governments can prioritize its sickest patients, the aim is to reach a point where anyone with COVID-19 symptoms can get tested with their results delivered on the same day. Serological or antibody-based tests should also be in the works so a country would know if a person has previously been infected and could potentially be immune.


It’s also essential for governments to consider having a sufficient supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers in preparation for the foreseeable rise in patients. Finally, a fourth consideration involves a country’s ability to track, manage, and treat cases at a rapid pace. Inglesby stated that a country with the capacity to meet these four key criteria could look into relaxing social distancing. However, the best practice is to lift measures one set at a time, before analyzing its impact and moving back if necessary.