THE EDITOR: I am puzzled by the WHO regarding its position on national lockdowns. If my memory serves me correctly, that organisation was at the forefront of this approach to stemming the spread of the covid19 virus.
Today one of its officials, Dr David Nabarro, has voiced his scepticism regarding WHO’s original support for locking down diverse segments of societies. His public statement was aired on the news.com.au website: “WHO backflips on virus stance by condemning lockdowns.”
That excerpt was itself an extract from a longer interview by Prof Sunetra Gupta of Oxford University aired on spectator.co.uk/tv. For reasons unknown, that extensive interview by Gupta was removed from the internet and appears to be inaccessible at this time. Why?
Nabarro, who is cited merely as “an official of WHO,” in a dramatic and contradictory statement on the website referenced, asserted, “Lockdowns just have one consequence that you must never ever belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer.”
He also stated, interestingly, that he wished to make it quite clear that “we in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus.”
He continued: “The only time we believe that a lockdown is ever justified, is to buy you time to reorganise, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted. But by and large we’d rather not do it.”
He added further: “Just look at what’s happened to the tourism industry, for example, in the Caribbean or in the Pacific because people aren’t taking their holidays. Look what’s happened to smallholder farmers all over the world because their markets have got dented. Look what’s happening to poverty levels – it seems that we may well have a doubling of world poverty by next year. We may well have at least a doubling of child malnutrition because children are not getting meals at school, and their parents in poor families are not able to afford it.
“This is a terrible, ghastly global catastrophe, actually. And so we really do appeal to all world leaders: stop using lockdown as your primary control method. Develop better systems for doing it. Work together and learn from each other – but remember, lockdowns just have one consequence that you must never, ever belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer.”
Nabarro certainly appears to be advancing a point of view that contradicts what the Dr Tedros-led WHO has been advocating since the inception of this pandemic. Who is he? According to Wikipedia, he is a medical doctor, unlike Tedros, who is not medically qualified and the first ever non-medical person elected to lead WHO.
Nabarro has made his career in the international civil service, working for either the secretary-general of the United Nations or the director-general of WHO. Most recently, from February, he has helped the director-general deal with the covid19 pandemic.
Indeed, his advice seems better grounded in today’s reality and far more rational in terms of the detrimental effects of national lockdowns against which many societies have been protesting.