The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday called on governments to engage in dialogue with anti-mask demonstrators, while reminding them that the virus is “real” and “kills”.
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“We should listen to what people ask, what people say. We should engage in an honest dialogue, ”Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the media, when asked about anti-mask protests that occurred last week in Germany and elsewhere.
“But at the same time, I would like to tell those who protested last week that the virus is real. He is dangerous. It circulates quickly and kills, and we must do everything to protect ourselves and others, ”he added, during a press conference from WHO headquarters in Geneva.
As the prospect of a second wave of the pandemic fuels fears of new lockdowns in Europe and elsewhere, anger grows among supporters of a relaxation of restrictive measures against the coronavirus.
In Germany, the attempt to storm the national parliament during an anti-mask demonstration this weekend marked a new stage in the radicalization of the movement.
Michael Ryan, director of health emergencies at the WHO, recalled that epidemics and emergency situations have always created “strong emotions” making it very difficult for the population to accept measures.
“It is really important that governments do not overreact to people’s protests against the measures,” he said, also calling for dialogue.
The head of the WHO, for his part, sent a clear message to those who believe that it is not so serious if the virus mainly kills the elderly: “Every life, whether it is a young or old, is precious. And we must do everything to save it ”.
“To accept that someone die because of their age is moral bankruptcy,” he has said repeatedly.
He also called on people protesting the restrictions to demonstrate in respect of hygiene measures and physical distancing. “Even during demonstrations, and wherever there are crowds (…), we must keep our distance, we must wear masks”.
More generally, he called on governments to “do everything to prevent” the occurrence of events that risk amplifying the epidemic, so that “other economic sectors can really open up and the economy can resume”.
So he cited as an example, in regions where the threat from COVID is high, that matches at sporting events should take place without an audience. “I think we can live without going to the stadium,” he said.