Reality check: No, the WHO didn’t reverse its position on coronavirus lockdowns.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: WHO wants to avoid ‘punishing’ lockdowns amid pandemic, official says'

WATCH: WHO wants to avoid 'punishing' lockdowns amid pandemic, official says – Oct 9, 2020

The World Health Organization has been working this week to clarify its stance on pandemic lockdowns after one of its officials acknowledged the negative economic consequences such measures can bring.

Dr. David Nabarro, the organization’s special envoy on COVID-19, made an appeal for world leaders to “stop using lockdowns as your primary control method.”

“Lockdowns just have one consequence that you must never ever belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer,” Nabarro told a British news network on Oct. 9.

Many people online, including politicians, began interpreting the comments as the WHO “reversing” its stance on lockdowns. Others latched onto the argument that the WHO’s comments were the first time the organization admitted that lockdowns are harmful.

That’s far from the case, said Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Ottawa.

“They never said they don’t work, they just said it’s not a permanent solution,” he said.

“It was never meant to be a permanent solution.”

Tweet This

Since COVID-19, the WHO has come under pressure for its handling of the virus, including whether it was too slow to declare a global health emergency and whether its praise for China’s handling of the virus created a false sense of security.

However, its stance on lockdowns has stayed consistent since April. It repeatedly recognized that stringent measures like lockdowns can be effective at stopping the spread of the virus, but they can be problematic if done long-term.

Or, as Nabarro said, if it is a country’s “primary” measure.

“Shutdowns and lockdowns can slow COVID-19 transmission by limiting contact between people,” reads the WHO’s guidance from April 14. “However, these measures can have a profound negative impact on individuals, communities, and societies by bringing social and economic life to a near stop.”

Though lockdowns were widespread and arguably necessary for many countries at the outset of the pandemic, the WHO acknowledged in the same report that there is an “urgent need to plan for a phased transition away from such restrictions that will enable the sustainable suppression of transmission at a low-level whilst enabling the resumption of some parts of economic and social life.”

The guidance stayed consistent in May, where the organization outlined criteria for countries to consider before lifting lockdowns, stay at home orders and other restrictions; and again in June. In a statement to Global News on Thursday, the WHO’s press office said: “Our position on lockdowns and other severe movement restrictions has been consistent since the beginning.”

Trending Stories

So why the confusion?

“This is par for the course when it comes to this disease and public communication,” said Deonandan.

“You can speak as specifically as you want, but in the era of public media, it’s really easy to take things out of context, either unintentionally or, most commonly, deliberately, which I think is what’s going on here.”

Deonandan believes the misinterpretation of the WHO’s comments — whether “deliberate” or not — might stem from the blurring of lockdowns and restrictions.

“It’s a semantic issue, sure, but it’s an important distinction,” he said.

“A lockdown, of course, is when everything is closed, when no one can leave the house. Now we have restrictions, and restrictions are sustainable.”

The idea that the WHO had “reversed” its guidance was most prominently picked up by the U.S. president.

In response to Nabarro’s comments, Donald Trump tweeted “The World Health Organization just admitted that I was right.”

“Lockdowns are killing countries all over the world,” he said on Oct. 12. “The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself. Open up your states, Democrat governors. Open up New York. A long battle, but they finally did the right thing!”

Experts agree — lockdown orders have drawbacks. Closures slashed economies, hampered education, increased domestic violence, and fostered remarkable psychological effects.

The WHO yet again recognized this in a thread of tweets that followed Trump’s one day later.

“Lockdowns are not sustainable solutions because of their significant economic, social and broader health impacts,” read one tweet. “However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, there’ve been times when restrictions were necessary and there may be other times in the future.”

Lockdowns are part of the “hammer and dance” principle, said Deonandan, which the WHO was trying to communicate.

“The hammer is the complete economic shutdown. It is so harsh that you do temporarily get a handle on things, and then you dance with more targeted public health endeavors to keep the cases at bay once the hammer is done,” he said.

“The hammer is meant to buy time.”

At the onset of the pandemic, health systems and governments were not equipped to handle the influx of infections from a virus that the world knew so little about. Lockdowns and stay-at-home orders made it possible for countries to reduce the spread, while also reconfiguring the systems and tools to fight it, said Deonandan.

“People need to understand we know so many more things now than we knew back in April,” he said.

“But if we fail to dance, we’re going to have to hammer.”

View link »

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Global News

Breaking news & current latest Canadian news headlines; national weather forecasts & predictions, local news videos, money and financial news; sports stats and scores.

Related news

3 Injured In Shooting At New York's Times Square

A shooting in New York's bustling Times Square has injured two women and a four-year-old girl, in an incident US authorities were still scrambling to understand, police said Saturday.


Sadiq Khan, London's Feisty Mayor, Wins Second Term.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who won re-election Saturday, has risen from humble roots to spar with prime ministers and presidents since taking charge of the British capital five years ago.


Dozens Injured In New Jerusalem Clashes

Dozens more people were injured Saturday as Israeli police fired water cannon and rubber bullets to disperse Palestinian protesters in annexed east Jerusalem, a day after fierce clashes at the city's...


Examining whether police should enforce traffic stops.

Examining whether police should enforce traffic stops.

ABC News’ Devin Dwyer looks at calls to remove police from traffic enforcement in the wake of violent and deadly encounters from routine stops.

Where does nuclear power fit in as the U.S. begins moving away from fossil fuels

Where does nuclear power fit in as the U.S. begins moving away from fossil fuels

President Biden aims to cut the country's carbon emissions by half by 2030, and move to a net-zero carbon economy by 2050. Central to that plan is investments in renewable energy sources, like wind, solar and hydroelectric power. But what about nu...

Climate expert weighs in on Biden's promise to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate expert weighs in on Biden's promise to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

President Biden is making climate change and the environment one of the key agenda items of his administration. The president has promised to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. He says that goal can be reached by passing his $2 trillion...

7 4

«We haven't got over the line, that's quite clear from the ballots».

«We haven't got over the line, that's quite clear from the ballots».

"We haven't got over the line, that's quite clear from the ballots" Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon "it's pretty clear from the way that the ballots are landing that we are not close to winning this despite our best endeavours."

Trey Gowdy predicts US will 'be drawn back into conflict' in Afghanistan.

Trey Gowdy predicts US will 'be drawn back into conflict' in Afghanistan.

'Special Report' panel discuss how the US should handle Afghan interpreters left behind as troops head home. #FoxNewsSubscribe to Fox News! Watch more Fox News Video: Watch Fox News Channel Live: FOX News Channel (FNC) is a 24-hour all-encompassin...

NBC Nightly News Broadcast (Full) - May 6th, 2021 - NBC Nightly News.

NBC Nightly News Broadcast (Full) - May 6th, 2021 - NBC Nightly News.

San Francisco finds success in Covid vaccination outreach, Florida governor signs controversial voting bill, and new data shows rise in anti-Asian attacks. Watch “NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt” at 6:30 p.m. ET / 5:30 p.m. CT (or check your loc...