Dr David Nabarro has warned the Government against imposing stricter rules, arguing people must support the restrictions needed to slow the spread. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This war, and I think it’s reasonable to call it a war, against this virus, which is going to go on for the foreseeable future, is not going to be won by creating tougher and tougher rules that attempt to control people’s behaviour. The only way that we will come out ahead of this virus is if we’re all able to do the right thing in the right place at the right time because we choose to do it.
“I think we will get the point, I just hope that it doesn’t require a lot more people to end up in hospital and dying for us all to get the point, that all of us, all of us, have to be rigorous about physical distance, wearing masks, hygiene, isolating when we’re sick and protecting those who are most vulnerable.”
The WHO chief also told Andrew Neil, for The Spectator magazine, the lockdown would make people poorer.
“I want to say it again: We in the World Health Organisation do not advocate lockdowns as a primary means of controlling this virus,” he said.
He said there could be a doubling of world poverty by next year and cited the devastating effect lockdowns have had on tourism industries across the world.
Dr Nabarro said: “’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.”
Speaking to MPs in September, he said the world is still at the beginning of the pandemic and it will take some time to work out how to deal with it.
The Imperial College scientist had previously advocated for lockdowns as a way to deal with outbreaks.
He told MailOnline he had become “more and more convinced” in recent weeks that they were not the right way forward, because of the enormous social and economic consequences.
The UK’s medical community remains polarised over the government’s response to the pandemic, and two separate groups of health experts have written to the UK’s chief medical officers.
One has expressed concern over the suppression strategy, and called for targeted measures, including segmentation and shielding of vulnerable groups to be adopted instead of local or national lockdowns.
However, another group has denounced the idea of a targeted approach to shielding until herd immunity has developed, saying there were no examples of this working in any country.