NEW YORK — A top world health official Monday warned that countries are essentially driving blind in reopening their economies without setting up strong contact tracing to beat back flare-ups of the Coronavirus.
The warning came as France and Belgium emerged from lockdowns, the Netherlands sent children back to school, and many U.S. states pressed ahead with the lifting of business restrictions.
Authorities have cautioned that the scourge could come back with a vengeance without widespread testing and tracing of infected people’s contacts with others.
In fact, fears of infection spikes in countries that have loosened up were borne out in recent days in Germany, where new clusters were linked to three slaughterhouses; Wuhan, the Chinese city where the crisis started; and South Korea, where a single nightclub customer was linked to 85 new cases.
The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, said that robust contact tracing measures adopted by Germany and South Korea provide hope that those countries can detect and stop virus clusters before they get out of control. But he said the same is not true of other nations exiting their lockdowns, declining to name specific countries.
“Shutting your eyes and trying to drive through this blind is about as silly an equation as I’ve seen,” Ryan said. “And I’m really concerned that certain countries are setting themselves up for some seriously blind driving over the next few months.”
Illustrating how the virus has altered workplaces all over, the White House announced it will require everyone who enters the West Wing to wear a mask after a series of Coronavirus scares near the president.