The World Health Organization (WHO) said that while social-distancing measures are important, countries also need to ramp up testing in order to fight COVID-19.
“We have seen a rapid escalation in social-distancing measures, like closing schools and cancelling sporting events and other gatherings,” said WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a press conference on Monday. “But we have not seen an urgent enough escalation in testing, isolation and contact tracing, which is the backbone of the response.”
Both testing and social-distancing measures are necessary to fight the virus, he said.
A number of European countries have been escalating social distancing over the last few days: closing schools, cancelling public events and, in some cases, essentially locking some cities down.
Canadian provinces have begun to escalate social distancing as well, with Alberta, Quebec and Ontario closing schools temporarily and Quebec also closing bars, clubs, gyms and other such public spaces.
These sorts of measures aren’t enough, though, Tedros said.
“The most effective way to prevent infections and save lives is breaking the chains of transmission,” he said.
“And to do that, you must test and isolate. You cannot fight a fire blindfolded, and we cannot stop this pandemic if we don’t know who is infected.
“We have a simple message for all countries: test, test, test, test.”
Countries should be able to test every suspected case, he said.